Here’s the only good thing about shopping at Costco on a Saturday: free samples. I hate crowds, parking, and waiting in lines, but oh man do I love free samples. And you know what? It works! I never would have bought that bag of sausages with the special sauce if the lady hadn’t given me a piece fresh out of her little portable oven.
Your blog is a kind of free sample. It gives a taste for the quality of your work, establishes trust, and is totally free! You don’t want your blog there just talking up real estate on your site. You want it to be a resource for your visitors—and ideally, you want it to be the reason visitors come in the first place (like samples on a Saturday). Because if people go to your site to seek out your advice on something, or your reviews of a new product, you’ve established yourself as an expert in the field and a trusted resource. That’s how you get good business, loyal customers, and great referrals. In short, it’s how you generate leads.
Establish Yourself as the Expert
Everybody claims to be the best in an advertisement. This is your chance to show them that you actually are the best. You can solve the very problem they’re coming to you to get solved. As an expert, you understand not only what you do, but what that particular customer wants. When you can demonstrate that, you’ve got yourself a sale.
Write Great Pillar Articles
Pillar articles are in-depth articles that serve to both establish your expertise and drive traffic to your site. Write about four for your site, each one 1000 words. Take your time, do your research, and ensure that they’re engaging, readable, informative, and helpful. That’s how you rise up the search results rankings and get more and more people checking out your business. This is one area you probably want to hire out for. Read on to see why.
Use Calls to Action
Calls to Action are your opportunity to upgrade that reader to a customer, thought perhaps not directly. Put an opt-in form at the end of the post and make them a subscriber. Ask a question to get them talking in the comments or on your forum. Ask them to share the post on social media. Or direct them to your online store. Done right, your pillar content brings in new traffic and directs them to customerhood.
Produce High-Quality Content
Because these articles are so so crucial to your business, get them professionally produced. Get a designer to put together infographics. Get a writer to write the post with calls to action. Get someone to do the research for it. Since this will be the first thing many see, you want it to be stellar, the best content on your site.
Everything on your blog should be providing value to your customers. Produce your posts with that in mind, then direct them to the part of your site that will most benefit them. You’ll have no problem generating leads.
As if the Apple store experience weren’t cool enough, as if Apple weren’t already worth $800B, now Apple has reinvented retail yet again, transforming it into a social, educational, entertainment experience.
Which is to say: Apple is a destination. And in becoming a destination, it has established itself as the freaking Beyonce of the tech world with Today at Apple as its Lemonade.
Whatever you say about Jobs, you cannot say he didn’t take his shit seriously. He practically willed Gorilla Glass into existence. And he is the reason Apple continues to grow, transform, innovate, and dominate years beyond his passing.
You Don’t Have to Be an Asshole to Make Millions
First, Steve Jobs is renowned for his assholery–which, please, the world doesn’t need more a-holes okay?
So don’t be an a-hole but do learn this lesson: But it stemmed from his profound love of his products. He wanted to make the best things, make them beautifully, make them perfect, make them better than anything else out there could ever be. (I would argue he succeeded.)
Apple’s products are your web content.
If you don’t take it seriously, no one else will either.
You Do Have to (Probably?) Be a Control Freak
Steve Jobs was a control freak. He didn’t just insist on the visible, functional, important piece of his products (like the unscratchable Gorilla Glass on iPhones). He wanted even the inside of his computers to be beautiful. Which makes sense except that MacBooks, by design, are made to only be opened by Apple personnel. The consumers would never know, but he did it anyway. That’s how seriously he took his products.
In 2011, Beyonce put out a music video for “Run the World (Girls)”. At first glance, it appears to be a pretty run-of-the-mill pop music video. She dances. Backup dancers dance. It’s visually appealing. But two, far-fetched, beyond control freak things set this video apart from all other videos:
1. She flew in dancers from Africa to teach her to do a specific dance. But not famous dancers. Her team spent 4 months tracking down two guys from a random youtube video because no other dancer in this country, apparently, could dance quite like they did. She insisted on learning directly from them.
It must be a pretty important dance, right? Like there’s some crazy dramatic twist, an epic climax wherein she and a hundred people perform this carefully, beautifully choreographed number and the viewers have no choice but to respond with breathless wonder and awe.
Ha! The song opens with the three of them performing the routine. Total screen time? About 50 seconds (!). And I bet most viewers never even notice the two dancers flanking the queen.
2. But maybe my favorite crazy detail in this video is the four seconds beginning at 00:31. It’s a lion, guys. A full-grown, black-maned, king of the jungle lion. For no reason other than to make Beyonce look badass. (Success!)
Can you imagine the logistics that went into to producing that shot? Like, last I checked there weren’t lions roaming around America. She couldn’t just go to the Savannah and stick it in the back of her Jeep (for so many reasons). It had to be scouted, transported it and trained to sit in the front of the camera so that it didn’t turn grumpy (violent) and shred everyone around it (which is what I do when I’m hangry). All of that for a four-second shot.
A shot, by the way, in which nothing at all happens.
I’m not saying you have to be Steve Jobs or Beyonce (as if you even could).
I’m saying that these people are at the top (and Jobs has been dead for 6 years) because they took their content seriously. They continually reinvented the game, upped the stakes, innovated, created, crafted, and, ultimately, changed the world forever. (And definitely for the better.)
Now it’s your turn to build a business that matters and content that rocks.
Marketing. Really great marketing.
Because it doesn’t matter how great your management is or how brilliant your content or how ingenius your business idea. If people don’t know about it, if people know about it but don’t understand how it improves their lives, your work is for nothing.
Invest in Market Research
It is so easy to start a business. Most fail. This is crucial to succeeding. You can’t just launch a business and say, Here we are! Give us your business! That’s not going to work. You have to first get in front of them and second persuade them with your pitch. Whether that pitch is a video or landing page or tweet, you don’t have much time to convince them, which is why knowing your audience is everything.
Who is your ideal customer? What do they read? Where do they hangout? Why do they need your product? What do they do in their freetime? What words are going to resonate with them, compel them to be interested? How will you solve their problem? How will you help them understand how you will solve their problem? You’ve got to answer these questions so you can craft effective marketing campaigns.
Launch a Killer Campaign
Because you’ve done your research, you know what sort of visuals, colors, words to use, and you know where to put your ads and where to guest blog, which social media platforms to leverage and which influencers to partner with. When all is accounted for, running a good campaign costs a pretty penny. You take all the information you gathered to craft a campaign that elevates your brand, brings traffic, and ends up in sales.
Rack Up 7-13+ Touches
https://www.onlinemarketinginstitute.org/blog/2013/10/why-it-takes-7-to-13-touches-to-deliver-a-qualified-sales-lead-part1/ But, you’re doing more than looking for sales. You’re actually cultivating relationships. This is the fun part of building a business in 2017, and it’s also going to help your business build long-term success. Your campaigns need to be well-crafted and fresh to get eyes, and they have to establish a connection to keep those eyes on your channels. Whatever form of content you’re producing, tell a story that connects to your audience.
Don’t Do It Alone
It’s so time intensive to do marketing right. It’s complex, involved, and always shifting. Few startups have the capacity to do it well, and that’s part of why so many fail. Entrepreneurs work really hard to make excellent products, they pay for beautiful websites, they get investors and hire great people—and then they fail because the people who would have been happily loyal to them didn’t know about their product, or didn’t see its value.
You worked so hard to make your idea a reality. You worked so hard to build a good company. Don’t do all that work just to see it all collapse. Market market market. Market smart. Market often. Market well. And as your business grows and changes, shift your strategy along with it.
It’s easy to feel like you should be on every social media channel. Get a facebook, a twitter, and instagram, a youtube, a pinterest, a blog so that you can reach everyone. The more people who see your page, the more who will follow, the bigger influence, growth, and revenue = social media jackpot!
Except, people don’t just follow you because you’re around. They follow you because you’ve got good content, because you’re providing videos they want to watch and share, or memes or information. Basically, like in all things business, you have what they want.
The problem is, every platform is a little different and if you put the same content on all the platforms, you just come off as stale and lame. But if you produce different content for every platform–well, you don’t have time for that as a startup.
So how do you choose?
Do the thing you’re best at. Not everyone presents well on camera, and not everyone is interesting to listen to, or can write engaging blog posts. Think about your strengths and interests and those of your team. It’s going to take dedication so choose a form of content that can be produced both well and consistently.
Go where your market is. Not everyone is on facebook as their primary platform. Instagram is influencer-heavy. Both lend themselves well to video. If your market includes commuters, people who exercise and students, a podcast may be a good fit. Blogs are great for every website because they’re easily integrated into SEO-optimization strategies (in fact, they’re often a cornerstone) but they, too, require writing skills, good visuals, and a bit of technical knowledge.
Videos and Podcasts and Blogs, Oh My!
Video marketing is said to be the big thing of 2017. The American Marketing Association says that 85% of US search traffic will be driven by video by 2019. Engaging video content is already king on social media. Every major social media platform now includes options for video, whether it’s a disappearing snapchat-style video, live streaming, or improved options for sharing.
Of course, the payoff for viral video is significant. It’s what everyone hopes for. But creating viral video may be one of the most energy and time-intensive options. It requires scripting, equipment, editing, music, not to mention content that quickly engages your viewer. In other words, unless you have a really great company to make your videos and the budget to spare, it’s probably not the best option to start with. (Then again, if you have the strategy and the means to execute, go for it! But don’t bother with trying to maintain other social media channels as you get it off the ground.)
Podcasts have a very low barrier to entry. All it takes is a microphone and a computer. But for a well-produced podcast, a podcast that gets listened to and that gets advertisers and a strong listener base (which is the reason you’re putting it out, right?) then you should at least get an editor. Plenty of podcasts start out without one, but production values will be much better which means more people will be willing to listen and share. You can invest in nicer equipment and greater sophistication as you go, but since podcast is all sound: make it good from the start.
In addition to the technical aspects of a podcast, it requires a weekly commitment. Are you going to interview a new guest each week? In person, by phone or by skype? Think about the time it will take to find, research, book and interview guests. If it’s not an interview show, what value will you be providing your listeners and who will be in charge of producing that content? How will you promote it? How much time will you devote each week to producing and recording?
Blogs are arguably the easiest and most low-maintenance form of content. They also help to boost your SEO rankings, and all you need is a solid writer. A good blog should always be a part of your website and your social media strategy. Like podcasts and video, it’s a great way to build brand awareness and establish your company as a leader in your field. Video is showing up more and more in search results, but people still visit websites and scan pages for their answers. It’s easy to share information at a glance, to tell a story in the time it takes to scroll down the page. Plus, embedded graphics are shared on social media sites, providing another avenue for visibility and traffic.
No matter what you choose, you’ll have to invest some money and time. You need a strategy for engaging and growing your audience, converting views and likes to sales, and a consistent production schedule. Commit to one and make it amazing.
The Business You’re Trying to Start Will Most Likely Fail. Here’s How You can Beat the Odds
The two business decisions that will make the greatest impact on your company immediately and long-term are: your team and your marketing.
Your Team: Hire for Talent and for Team
Your company is as good as your team. Don’t just hire great individuals. Hire great teams. Ensure that your team’s individuals can work well together as people and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Hire with an eye for growth and development. Look for people who can lead well, which means not just looking out for their own promotion but are great at mentoring and supporting, and who care about other people as much as themselves.
Most employees in the US are disengaged which means they aren’t contributing their best ideas and energy. That means that the company misses out on the strengths of their employees and taken to scale, that’s working with just a fraction of a work force.
At a startup, you have the opportunity to hire smart hard workers who will bring their A game, and stay with their A game. You build a strong company culture that values performance, creativity, the unique strengths, skills, and talents of each team member so that instead of working with the equivalent a fraction of your workforce, you’re working with a workforce powerful and effective beyond your team’s individual contributions.
It sounds simple enough but this is so often overlooked. People who look great on paper aren’t 100 in the interview, but we hire them because they’re good enough. People who are fabulous in interviews and give all the right answers are never given actual hands-on exercises or introduced to other team members and by the time it’s apparent they’re a bad fit, team dynamics have already taken a hit.
Take care in hiring your people, even if it takes longer. Surely you know from your own experience that all it takes for a good person to leave a company is one bad manager. People are your greatest investment. Protect them.
Your Marketing: Authentic and Finely Crafted
It’s not easy to convey a company’s personality through the internet. The companies that make it look easy do it with a stellar marketing team.
Go look at the instagram page of any big brand. Look at how beautifully the photos are taken, how they all follow a color palette and design scheme. Watch what times and days they’re posted and the interactions they have with their followers.
Naturally when we try to tell a story about ourselves, we end up talking about ourselves. You can’t do that with a brand or company because you exist to serve other people. Therefore, your story must be about them. Most companies struggle to communicate their value, and that’s fatal.
Anyone who’s written an admissions essay knows how hard it can be to speak interestingly and illuminatingly about our purpose. It’s just hard! You write and re-write and tweak and hire a tutor and freak out. It’s the same with storytelling as a business but arguably the stakes are a little higher.
That’s why it works so well to get someone else to do the storytelling (which is all marketing really is). As listeners, they know what’s boring/interesting about it, the pieces that will be valuable to your base, the parts than can be clipped down for a tweet or edited into a video. They take what you’ve been working so hard to achieve and present it so that others can relate. Instead of hearing an idea, they’re evaluating how it will benefit their life. That’s what you want.
Doing marketing right is so complex and time-consuming. Producing stellar content and ensuring vibrant, engaged social media channels are full-time jobs unto themselves, and with the high stakes of startup it’s crucial to start with a good strategy well-executed. It will ensure you grow from the very beginning.
Your team is going to set the course and your marketing is going to ensure that you have enough business to keep on that course. So choose your people wisely, even if it takes a long time, and market like your business depends on it. Because it does.