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There are two things you need to know to be successful in marketing a startup. The first is that a great product isn’t enough on its own to succeed. The second is that no amount of marketing will make a bad product popular. As the saying goes, “Good marketing can’t save a bad product.” To be successful, your startup needs both a great product and great marketing. That’s why this guide covers both customer acquisition and product-market fit.

In this chapter we will explore seven key aspects of creating a strong marketing strategy for startup companies.

Obtaining feedback from users is more important than acquiring customers in the early stages of development. It is essential to listen to user feedback in order to make improvements to the product that match the demand in the market. By resolving user objections quickly and efficiently, your startup will be more likely to succeed in the long run.

Other important topics that will be covered are: finding your core channel, growth hacking, conversion rate optimization, using Facebook ads, customer feedback loops, targeting early adopters, and fine-tuning your messaging.

The Benefits of Finding Your Core Marketing Channel

When you’re just starting out, it’s important to find one core marketing channel and double down on it. This requires systematically experimenting with many channels early-on to eliminate low-performing channels and find one that has all the traits of a winning core channel. To keep your budget in check, it’s recommended to put a system in place to plan your experiments and track their performance. A platform like TrueNorth will save you time and help you focus all of your campaigns on achieving your growth goals.

Is it really possible to embed marketing into your product?

I disagree with Fred Wilson’s quote, yet I can’t dispute that the most successful startup marketing strategies are those that embed marketing into their product. Dropbox, Hotmail, Eventbrite, Mailbox, and Snapchat famously acquired millions of users with almost no money spent on marketing. Their secret? Building virality into their product.

A startup’s ability to grow virally depends on two variables: time, and the ‘viral coefficient’ i.e. the number of new users each user generates. Below is a graph to illustrate startup growth at different rates based on varying viral coefficients.

Imagine that the Y-axis represents your number of user sign-ups, and the X-axis represents time. If your viral coefficient is 1.0 (each user generates one new user), you will achieve linear growth, assuming you retain your users. If you have a viral coefficient above 1.1, you will achieve exponential growth as illustrated by all of the lines above the lower green line.

How do you embed marketing into your product?

Every startup is unique, so I won’t discuss tactical methods in great detail. There are two broad strategies, though: The first is to build a product worth recommending. If every single user recommends two new users, you have exponential growth. The easiest method of measuring a user’s likelihood to recommend your startup is by using the Net Promote Score, a simple test where you ask users “on a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend our product to a friend?” If the aggregate score is above 9.0, you will likely achieve exponential growth.

The second strategy is to align your ‘growth hack’ with the channel(s) that your ideal customers use to learn about your product. In the context of growth hacking, it’s no good if your growth hack generates enormous exposure for your brand on Facebook – if 99% of your best-fit customers coming from reading B2B whitepapers. If that were the case, a better approach would be to produce user-generated content that could be used to scale producing high-quality whitepapers.

Conversion Rate Optimization

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of figuring out why website visitors aren’t “converting” into customers, and then improving your website messaging or value proposition to increase the conversion rate. Contrary to popular belief, CRO does not start with A/B testing; it starts with understanding your visitors and their objections. The fastest way to understand why potential customers are not converting is to ask them. Install Intercom, a tool that allows you to talk in real time with website visitors, and ask visitors to fill out a survey using Survey Monkey. Ask for feedback in a forum your customers participate on, or commission some user tests from UserTesting.com. Invite someone you know (a customer) to lunch / Skype. Following this, hopefully you will have a good idea of what is preventing your visitors from converting. Now it’s time to make changes to your landing page to counter these objections. The first thing to do is focus on the areas with the most leverage. Focus on your headlines, call to actions, and your homepage landing page experience. The following model by WiderFunnel is also a fantastic starting point for understanding how to improve the likelihood of a conversion. Whenever you are presented with a CRO problem, consider how you could improve each point. For example, can you reduce the navigation to minimize distractions? Could you increase the urgency by having a countdown timer or a “Only X left” next to your call-to-actions? Once you have your mockups designed, you can use Google Optimize to test them against your existing landing page for free. CRO is not something you do once. You should strive to constantly tweak and improve your landing pages to make incremental improvements. Equally, know that incremental tweaks will always hit a limit. There’s often far more opportunity in being bold and testing something very different.

 Facebook Advertising as a Customer Research Tool

Most people think of Facebook advertising as a way to acquire new customers, but it can also be one of the best customer research tools. For example, you could run an identical ad to 500 different demographic and psychographic audience segments. Using conversion tracking, you can see which demographics and psychographics have the highest conversion rate. This information can be used to target future advertising campaigns.

Installing a Customer Feedback Loop

As Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup discusses, the Iteration Cycle is necessary in order to improve based on feedback. A simple form asking for feedback is not likely to give you the feedback you need, since most people won’t bother filling it out. Incentives, meeting with users, and studying user behavior data will help you understand where people fall off in your funnel and why.

How to Go From Unknown to Well-Known in Your Industry

Many inexperienced marketers make the mistake of targeting the mass market too soon. The reason this rarely works is because the majority of people resist change, and are not receptive to products / services that are not already recommended by early adopters. I learned this lesson through A/B testing. Two years ago, while running an experiment to see whether additional social proof increased sign-up rates, I found that by simply adding the number of likes and users already signed up next to the sign-up button, had a dramatic impact on increasing the website’s sign-up rate. If you want to own the majority market share, your initial launch strategy and messaging must appeal to innovators and early adopters. Once you have a number of case studies, testimonials, and respected innovators singing your praises, then it’s time to approach the majority. The laggards will follow.

Why Glemad360 exists

Glemad360 was created to help people capture and convert more leads. We believe that by making it easy for people to capture leads, we can help them close more deals and grow their businesses. Glemad360 is the simplest, most effective way to capture and convert leads.

The Importance of Marketing

Differentiate your marketing. Various studies predict that we see between 1,000 and 5,000 advertisements per day depending on where we live. How do you compete and stand out with your marketing in such a saturated space? The answer is by being the shepherd, not a sheep. Our brain categorizes similar pieces of information together, a process known as Gestalt. Because of this, the more of a similar thing we see, the less impact each additional thing has. When Lady Gaga wore a dress made of meat, it made headlines all over the world. When others copied her quirkiness, hardly anyone talked. This pattern has repeated itself millions of times over. This is not about first-mover advantage; this is about observing what everyone else is, and being the opposite. Apply this from the most macro aspect of your strategy down to the micro, and you’ll be amazed at how significant this is. Now that we’ve covered off the foundations of messaging and preparing your product for a successful marketing strategy, let’s move on to customer acquisition. I’ve split the section on customer acquisition into three chapters, paid media, earned media, and owned media.

Paid Media Marketing is a good idea for Startups

You can get a positive ROI from it, and it can help you acquire users at a low cost. Additionally, it can help you benchmark your marketing progress against other channels.

Paid media channels include display, search, and affiliate marketing.

8 Facebook Advertising

While it’s possible to write a guide of this length on Facebook Ads alone, I’ll quickly summarise some of my recommendations based on a considerable amount of Facebook Ad campaigns that I’ve worked on.

Use page promoted posts targeting people in the news feed. These ads have the highest click-through and engagement rates.

Test as many advert variations as possible. The weirder, brighter, and more unique your ad is, the better.

When everyone else zigs, zag.

Don’t create ads using the Facebook Ad Manager (it’s awful). Either use the power editor, or a dedicated tool like Qwaya. This will make segmentation much easier.

Use conversion tracking – by installing the conversion pixel you enable oCPM for conversion bidding. This basically means that Facebook will algorithmically optimise your budget for more conversions.

Use fine segmentation – If you use Qwaya, you can split your ad campaign into tens or hundreds of individual ads each targeting a specific segment of your audience. This enables you to quickly see which ad segments perform well and which don’t, so you can move your budget to the segments that are most profitable.

Google Ads

If your product solves an issue that people search for, there’s a high likelihood that Google Ads will be a great acquisition channel for you. For example, if your startup helps people find the cheapest airline tickets, you may want to bid on terms like ‘cheap airline ticket’, ‘Abuja to Lagos airline tickets’, and ‘Abuja – Lagos cheapest airline ticket’.

 10 Google Adwords (Display)

You can buy banner ads from Google to appear on their Display Network. You can specify the websites you want your banner ad to appear on, or you can bid to have your ad appear on websites related to certain keywords. Nikon uses Google Display Network to run ads on Billboard.com. 

Google Remarketing

Google Remarketing is an advertising technique that goes one step beyond standard display advertising. Essentially, when someone visits your website, a cookie is dropped on their computer. When they visit other websites, an ad will appear encouraging them to come back to your website. You can get very smart with this by running different remarketing ads for different stages of your sign-up funnel. For example, if they visited the sign-up page but didn’t complete the form, you could run an ad with an incentive to finish signing up. Google Remarketing is generally very effective as the people you’re advertising to are qualified and already aware of your product. The trick is to get the frequency right and not be overly annoying!

 What is The Facebook Exchange

The Facebook Exchange program works in a very similar way to Google Remarketing, but uses Facebook Ads instead. In other words, if someone visits your website and then leaves, they may see your ads on Facebook encouraging them to come back. To use Facebook Exchange, you’ll need to partner with one of their approved providers. I’ve tested a handful of them and recommend AdRoll.

14 StumbleUpon Advertising

The quality of visitors from StumbleUpon is generally quite low, but the cost per click is exceptionally low, so you can buy a large amount of traffic for a low cost. I haven’t seen astounding results from StumbleUpon ads, except for travel-related content. StumbleUpon is a very visual social network, and inspirational and stimulating content seems to spread virally. If you’re a luxury travel operator, this is a gold mine. If you’re a SAAS company promoting an app, it may be a bit trickier.

Twitter Advertising

Twitter Ads can be effective when done correctly. My advice would be to promote an amazing piece of content rather than directly promoting your services. View Twitter as a 1:many platform where, if you run your ads correctly, you can launch your content to a large audience who will introduce it to an even larger audience. If your campaign dies after being promoted to the initial audience, start again.

Content Discovery Platforms

There are a number of content discovery platforms that can help promote your content. I’ve tested a few of these platforms, including Outbrain, Zemanta, nRelate, and Taboola. These platforms can be quite helpful for driving backlinks and launching content. However, they can also be quite expensive depending on the quality of your content.

Video Pre-Roll Advertising

If your startup has produced a compelling promo video, pre-roll advertising could be a powerful paid marketing channel for you. Using TubeMogul, you can pay for your video to appear as an advert before video content on major video networks, such as 4od, and YouTube.

One interesting ‘trick’ with pre-roll advertising is that you do not pay if your ad is skipped within the first five seconds (which most people do skip). The trick, then, is to go down one of two routes. The first route is to get the message out about your service within the first five seconds of the video hoping that people skip so that you can expose your message to a huge number of people without paying too much. The second option is to make the first five seconds ambiguous and weird enough to intrigue people to watch the rest of the video.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing can be a great way to accelerate your online marketing strategy, especially if your startup has a high margin product and a good conversion rate. However, I would advise against diving into affiliate marketing until you have already established your brand and found other marketing channels.

Do something remarkable

To get people talking about your startup, do something remarkable. This could be something outside the norm, or something that is remarkable in itself. If you’re not sure what to do, get some inspiration from Edward De Bono’s book on Lateral Thinking.

Build Exceptional Resources

 It’s always useful to have reliable resources that you can go to for information. For example, Moz.com’s weather report tool is an excellent resource for the SEO industry that gets a lot of publicity. Sometimes the best thing to do is not to try to reinvent the wheel, but to think about what would be most useful to your customers and then build something exceptional.

Meet Your Influencers

 How valuable would it be to your startup if you met Robert Scoble, Jack Dorsey, or some TechCrunch journalist? A large aspect of your success in PR and marketing does revolve around who you know, so it’s important to learn what affects the size and quality of your personal network. Meeting anyone starts with being in the same space as them, either geographically or virtually. Last January I was speaking at Midem, a music conference in the South of France. While over there I met Robert Scoble, Mark Hoppus from Blink 182, and a number of interesting people who’ve become invaluable contacts. I don’t say this to boast, but to make the point that it was incredibly predictable and well publicised that these people would be at Midem on the specified dates – all I had to do was show up. The hardest part in meeting the people you need to meet is booking the ticket and showing up. “80% of success is showing up” – Woody Allen

SEO

Over 500 million people use Google to search every day. Regardless of what some startup celebrities may proclaim, SEO is not something you should ignore. The strength of search marketing is that, if you have a product that people are looking for, your site can appear at the perfect moment – when they’re searching for it. This is different from Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube advertising, where you’re relying on distraction to pull people away from what they were doing to visit your website. With Google, you’re helping them find what they were looking for in the first place.

Organic search marketing is a broad field, so I won’t go into much depth here. However, I will share a few pieces of advice from my experience working at an SEO agency for several years and overseeing hundreds of campaigns.

Don’t think you’re saving money by hiring a cheap SEO. Rankings go both ways, and if you get someone who isn’t good, they’ll cost you more than you think. Be prepared to pay a fair price for quality SEO services.

Focus on what’s best for the users – when in doubt, ask yourself “is this best for our users?” – if the answer is yes, there’s a good chance that it’s also good for search engines.

Keep in mind that nothing is guaranteed. Anyone who guarantees results is likely selling snake oil. It takes time. I usually advise our clients not to expect any increase in SEO traffic for at least 3 months. However, sometimes we see results in as little as a week, but it typically takes a while for SEO to show growth.

Marketing for Startups Through Owned Channels

Owned channels are any marketing channels owned by the startup. This usually refers to websites and social media profiles that the startup manages. There is a lot of overlap between owned and earned channels, and it can be helpful to think of owned channels as the ‘platform’ for increasing the success of earned campaigns. For example, imagine that a startup has created a great story about breaking a world record. Without a platform to publish the story on, the best option may be to send out a press release and hope that at least one journalist picks it up. However, if the startup has a blog with a regular audience of 5,000 visitors per day, they can post the story there and be confident that, at a minimum, 35,000 people will have seen it within a week. Hopefully, that initial audience will help the story to grow organically.

It’s Hard to Build a Blog That Converts

 Most companies fail at it because they blog about what the company wants the customers to read, rather than what their customers actually want to read. There are only a handful of companies that get this. Buffer is one example–a company that offer social media automation software. Instead of their blog being about their services, their blog contains insights on everything from happiness to writing tips. They write what their customers want to read.

 My advice, if you want to build a truly successful blog, is to commit to writing 100 great articles. Once you’ve written 100 articles, you’ll have a good grasp of what works, and each article will bring in some traffic, a few links, and a few sign-ups each day. From there, the results will snowball. If you’re ready to start your blog, check out our study on the best  web hosting companies  to get started.

Email Marketing vs. Marketing Automation

Email marketing is rapidly being replaced by marketing automation. Marketing automation is software that gives you the ability to trigger personalised messages based on different rules. For example, if someone signs up for a free trial but doesn’t actually use a certain feature within a certain amount of time, you can trigger an automated email inviting them to check it out.

The next step is to know what makes a good email. This isn’t just about writing clickable subject lines and crafting beautiful HTML templates, it’s about understanding what your audience wants to receive in their inbox. Be sure to experiment with different frequencies of emailing, days of the week, and types. Comparing the open and click through rates over time is the only sure way to know what works and what doesn’t.

YouTube Traffic Estimator

We rarely think of YouTube as a search engine, but it has over 50,000,000 searches every day. With YouTube Traffic Estimator, we can see how many searches are made for different queries every month. Let’s say your startup offers time management solutions. A quick search on YouTube for videos on productivity reveals that many 3-minute videos have over 50,000 views. The benefit of incorporating video into your search strategy is that YouTube, and other video hosting sites, are less competitive than Google. Google is also featuring more videos in their universal search results.

 Content Marketing

 In terms of digital marketing, I like to think about what will be effective a couple years down the road. I don’t believe that content marketing will be the future, but I do think that content-based online PR will be. I think the overlap between creating great content and relationship-based PR will be what the best digital marketers focus on in the next few years. I won’t focus on the relationship-based part here, as I’ve already covered that in another section discussing meeting influencers. Instead, let’s focus on what makes content exceptional. My rule of thumb for producing exceptional quality content is to spend more than 40 hours on it. Anything that takes less time is probably easy to replicate and won’t be as successful. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create it, but it probably won’t generate amazing results. Instead of starting your content strategy with what can we create?, start with what would be amazing? You’ll find a way to create it.

Why use social media?

  There are many different reasons why you might want to use social media for your business. It could be to:  

  • Build relationships with customers and create a strong community around your brand.
  • Generate leads and enquiries.
  • Increase sales and conversion rates.
  • Drive brand awareness and simply get your name out there.
  • Make your business more visible in search engine results pages (SERPs).

  Developing a social media strategy that’s tailored to your specific business goals is essential for success. Trying to be active on every social network, as well as publishing regular blog posts, can quickly become overwhelming. It’s far better to focus your efforts on a few key channels, and produce high-quality content that will really resonate with your target audience. 

In conclusion,

it is important to note that nothing in this guide is set in stone. The advice given is just one perspective, and in many cases the opposite of what is advised here could be just as correct. It is advised that you experiment to reach your own conclusions on what works best for you.

The reason the advice in this guide is backed by eight years of testing is because this industry is constantly changing and evolving. We must challenge what we are told and figure out effective marketing strategies for our companies.

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