Written by: Liam Johnson
Whether on a budget or with financial backing, an internet-marketing strategy can be a cost-effective solution to your business’ success!
They say there is no better time than today to start up a new business; but why are so many start-up businesses failing in the UK? It is reported that half of all start-ups are failing within their first five years. Many entrepreneurs point the finger of blame towards the U.K tax system and tight-fisted banks for reasons of failure. While other business owners lament exorbitant running costs and the high barriers of entry due to decidedly competitive markets (Anderson, 2014).
We seek to put an end to this damning statistic. After all, the U.K is ranked as the most entrepreneurial country in Europe and 4th in the world with a record of over 5.2 million start-ups. Despite the easy access of technology in today’s world only 1.6 million of these start-ups actively trade online- that’s less than a third! (Young, 2015). The more start-ups with an online presence, the more chances of profitability. Think about it, start-ups can delve into emerging economies and allure customers worldwide. Surely, this is would enhance awareness and maximise ROI? (Wind, 2008).
Let’s place our businesses on the right track and come up with a winning online marketing strategy! We have composed five simple tips that every start-up should do to strategically market themselves online.
Tip 1: Begin your online presence and set up a website.
Every start-up which is intent on being successful must set up a website. A website is a base-point from where information and products/services can be obtained from the targeted consumers. Not only that, Web 2.0 offers a diverse platform with social offerings such as blogs, discussion boards and videos which can make your start-up communicate with your customers and set your brand image effectively (Christodoulides, 2009).
To set up a website, it can be done in three simple steps. The very first thing that you will need to do is register your domain name. It is not so difficult either! A domain name is the address of your website where customers can find you. Simply search for and register your domain name at a webhosting company. The most competitive companies are 123Reg, GoDaddy and 1&1 to name a few (Athow, 2015). Try to have a domain name that customers will remember!
Afterwards, you will need to build your own website. To a novice, website building usually brings great anxiety. However, rest assured it is possible to buy themes online from companies such as ThemeForest. DIY-website designers seek solace in buying a professional HTML or CSS templates and modifying them to their needs. To make things easier they often come with simplified builder software.
What is most popular are WordPress-themed websites. They are exemplary for their flexibility and array of plugin options which is why it has become the most popular content management system (CSM) in the world with over 74 million sites. Alternatively, it is always easier to have a paid website developer set up your website, but it is not always the most cost-effective solution (Rampton, 2015).
Lastly, you will need to host your website. A website has to be hosted on a server so that files and data can be stored and retrieved from your domain in order to make it accessible on the internet. Depending on the capacity of your website, you can seek plans which best serve you; there are often starter plans for those on a budget (Lunn, 2011).
When operating your website, you must contemplate how resourceful is it to the customer? Be certain that the website is visually appealing and information is easy to digest. In particular, be assured that product and service specifications are clearly detailed; otherwise customers will become disarrayed and less likely to purchase from your website. This can place your brand into dispute too! (Labrecque et al, 2013). In order to keep customers updated, you can deploy email marketing which can inform customers with newsletters consisting of updates and promotions. It is a widely popular marketing strategy by companies in the U.K, with 51% arguing it is the most effective internet marketing with applications such as MailChimp and MailMunch remaining popular (OurSocialTimes, 2015).
Tip 2: Integrate Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Before you publish your website, you will want to make sure it is easy to find for customers. To search for your website, customers will search via popular search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. In the U.K, the most popular search engine is Google obtaining 89% of all searches. (Bishop, 2014).
Granting this, many start-ups struggle to be found because they have not tailored their websites to be SEO friendly. As a general rule of thumb, customers opt for websites which are higher up in search results, so its essential start-ups can be found! To do this and improve your ranking in organic searches you must edit your metadata (description content) to be rich with key words and phrases. This can be done via WordPress sites via plugins; whereas HTML and CSS websites can be done over your server (Lines, 2014). By enabling richer content, automatic crawling software known as “spiders” or “bots” sent from search engines will be able to index and further determine the relevance of your site. It is strongly recommended that your page titles and content are unique to drive a higher organic (unpaid) search ranking! (Google, 2010).
Tip 3: Address your fan base: be present on social media!
Compared to life before social media, to gain publicity and popularity start-ups relied on word of mouth (WOM) through locality or extensive networking. A reliance on advertising campaigns usually brought low credibility at a refined cost. Today, popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram offer free registration to everyone. This has allowed start-ups to campaign and advertise mercifully on social media platforms by communicating with customers worldwide instantaneously and virally through electric word of mouth (eWOM). In effect, obtaining further credibility and enhanced sales conversion (Armelini & Villanueva, 2009).
According to Ofcom (2015), in the U.K we have become a society of social media addicts with 7/10 of us owning a social media account and accessing it for at least two hours a day. It’s not just an epidemic, it’s a pandemic! As of January 2016, the ever-growing numbers of social media users has foreseen Facebook reach 1.5 billion users and Twitter reach 320 million worldwide (Statista, 2016). This depth, presides excellent opportunities for start-ups and to reach out to creative consumers. While keen marketers often refer to social media as consumer-generated media (CGM), it is understandable as media can be carried through various forms such as words, texts, pictures and videos by consumers.
For instance, creative consumers that follow or develop an interest in your start-up’s social media activity can comment on your posts and discussion boards, share content and speculate with their friends and so forth continuing eWOM. In many circumstances, many consumers can promote your start-up via reviews or even self-created advertising videos; all relaying incoming traffic onto your social media page and stimulating added-value (Berthon et al, 2012). The likelihood is, the higher visibility and volume of eWOM messages, the more likely customers are prompted to engage in discussions and perceive your start-up as a credible brand (King et al, 2014).
Thus it goes without saying, communicate within your budget and most importantly remain ethical as any unscrupulous activity can attract bad publicity. “Whenever general information is disclosed to the general public, the firm relinquishes control over that information”. It is important to render the significance of privacy, transparency and security of your information, or you may invite trouble! (Vaccaro, 2014).
4) Be analytical: know who your customers are!
It is estimated that 71% of companies worldwide do not have financial models for their marketing activities. That’s a whole lot of companies whom undervalue their marketing arms. Whereas, as a future-thinking start-ups you should see your marketing activities as an asset rather than a required service.
First of all, you should consider; how many people are visiting my website? Who is visiting my website and where from? All these questions are easily answerable when using Google Analytics. By using Google Analytics, it allows you to track and measure view count and activity of customers on your website and social media pages. This helps places real value into your internet marketing strategy and can determine a higher ROI. Surely, you should bare your marketing strategy as your forearm, by increasing the rigor of marketing activities metrics will indicate the intricacies of your customers and help you plan a successful strategy for long-term growth. (Wind, 2008).
It is not to be forgotten, that metrics can also be obtained from all social media applications too. Metrics can be sourced from blogs, microblogs, forums, product reviews, video and photosharing applications and so forth. By doing so, you can gain an understanding of your start-up’s brand awareness by tallying how many page visits, unique visitors and number of followers you have. Equally important, you can retrieve metrics on brand engagement with numbers of comments, time spent by customers on your sites and number of signups. By observing the number of likes, shares and embeddings you can fully understand the effectiveness of your viral eWOM campaigns too (Hoffman & Fodor, 2010).
5). Pay to be popular
As many start-ups seek to grab the attention of its potential customers it can prove difficult to penetrate markets. Although, what is emerging as a popular solution for start-ups is investing more in social media marketing. Marketers of start-ups seem to recognise the potential in further relationship-building with customers and social building in terms of generating engagement from consumers to further establish a well-received brand.
In reality, start-ups often deduce traditional marketing as a cost expense; whereas marketing via social media is an investment and provides an evangelism approach to a start-up’s image with the ability to converse and share with customers while adorning a humanistic approach (Weinberg & Pehlivan, 2011). To spread awareness, start-ups usually invest in paid promotions. Many social media platforms such as Facebook, offer the ability to boost content singularly at a one-time cost. This permits a start-up to target to a specific audience and feature as promoted content on customer’s newsfeeds to captivate their attention (Facebook, n.d). A start-up with a larger budget may be persuaded to gain endorsement from social media celebrities with mass followings to engage target audiences. Albeit, start-ups should do their research beforehand and scrutinise whether the endorser in question has a clean image and not embroiled with any controversy. Consequently, this could be devastating for your start-ups image (Replodge, 2014).
Alternatively, it is possible to promote your website via Google AdWords. As previously highlighted, SEO helps achieve a better organic search result; whereas Google AdWords promotes your content on search results in relation to key words input by customers. This is paid for by pay-per-click (PPC), meaning that you only pay for the views from the advert onto your website (Google, n.d). This is a great tool for start-ups, particularly in saturated markets whom may find it difficult to niche themselves. Not only that, it’s quite cost effective too!
Last Few Words…
To summarise, it is in fact possible to be thrifty and yet have a winning online marketing strategy for start-ups in the U.K. To have a base point in a website that is informational and alluring and is easily findable is a must-have. Alongside this, an engaging social media portfolio is quintessential to your start-ups online success. It is possible to further build upon your online presence with viral advertising via social media and PPC too. Always remember to crunch numbers and be analytical. And what’s a good online campaign without being ethical? A catastrophe.
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