From my own experience, I understand that most startups, especially engineer-oriented ones, tend to feel confused about exactly which methods to adopt in order to attract traffic or reach out to educate potential clients after presenting a wonderful pitch about their innovative products or services, which may revolutionize the world.
The fact is, in the majority of startups that are designed for agility and simplicity contrary to giant enterprises, with a limited budget, it is rather difficult to assign a team dedicated to marketing.
That is why I am writing this article. I hope with my experience and expertise in doing inbound marketing for small players that I can offer some insights to you.
Every startup needs online marketing. So do you.
Traditional methods like outbound marketing, Public Relations, and conventions serve as a good start for small players (usually the very first step to take) and bring in initial clients.
However, as the company grows in size, it is essential to develop an inbound marketing strategy that could automatically attract a much larger volume of clients to your website or online account in the long run, instead of physically reaching out to a certain number of them, which is time- consuming and inefficient.
What are the available options?
There are multiple ways to do inbound marketing. As is shown below, the top 4 marketing methods with the highest rankings in Return Of Investment are Search Engine Optimization, Email marketing, Paid Search, and Social media marketing.
1, SEO brings in huge traffic over time but relies heavily on quality content
2, Email marketing presents the highest conversion rates, but we need to obtain an emailing list first by means of another method
3, Paid Search and Paid Social are costly but drive traffic rapidly
4, Social media posting requires an audience
It seems that each method has its own merits and flaws. That’s true. The fact is companies nowadays tend to adopt a combination of diverse techniques to maximize both lead generation and conversion.
However, if you are in a niche market with limited resources, you can earn your share too even by focusing only on one or two methods mentioned above. After all the market is supposed to grow unless of course yours is already condemned to death.
With a little luck, you can even stand out thanks to the fact that it is rare to have perfect competition in a new market.
But back to the point, I suggest preparing yourself to accept a diverse marketing portfolio.
Do I need content marketing?
Content marketing refers to all methods that heavily rely on the content to organically attract traffic and make conversions, such as blogging & guest blogging, social media posting, email marketing, and Search Engine Optimization.
Regarding soft measurements like branding and communication, content marketing works better than paid ads, especially social media posting.
Another point to be noted is that email marketing does well in both branding and hard KPIs, but requires a complimentary strategy to acquire email subscriptions.
To conclude, if apart from increasing traffic or contacts you do have demands to promote your brand or create a large potential client pool, then you need content marketing.
A little bit more information about the content. The point is, quality content is now necessary for multiple purposes in almost every platform, for example, your official website and social media, which helps to:
- Boost search engine ranking and attract traffic: Place keywords and increase indexed pages
- Educate potential customers about the benefits of your products: in 3rd party platforms like Facebook and Linkedin groups, Linkedin Feed, and Guest posting
- Align your ecosystem: recycle content from blogs to use in social media, newsletters, and all other public publications
- Support advertising and trick search engines for bringing in artificial traffic
It is becoming so important that you might want to consider creating a blog and hiring professional writers if need be. After all, the blog is the best place to put your keywords.
With a blog
Without a blog
You can see from above that between the two new B2B startups the one with a blog is able to place much more keywords into its website and therefore improve search engine ranking and bring in more traffic.
Again, do I need paid ads?
As we discussed before, paid advertising is mostly used to generate instant traffic the moment you invest money.
For companies worried about competition, it is suggested to at least use paid ads to cover your brand and product so that your rival can not steal away leads that are meant to search for you.
Imagine that you type in Google “Nike shoe male” and instead of Nike, Adidas pops up on top with the newest models and stunning pictures. You then might feel tempted and switch to Adidas.
Regarding lead generation, the most popular and reliable advertising platform is Google Search with guaranteed numbers of impressions and clicks as well as the highest click-through rates among all advertising methods.
Another good news is that you only have to pay when Google successfully brings clicks to you. No Gain, no costs.
More importantly, Paid search brings in quick traffic with intent.
Clicks on paid search listings beat out organic clicks by nearly a 2:1 margin for keywords with high commercial intent reported in the US. In addition, 64.6% of people click on Google Ads when they are looking to buy an item online!
What’s more, controllable traffic from ads helps to A/B test our content and website, such as landing pages, call-to-action buttons, topics of the blog, chatbot, and the UX of the website- literally everything to optimize conversion rates.
This is a second choice for you if you have sufficient funds and aim to boost your influence on social media.
Personally, I think a very important advantage of paid social ads is that you will be able to access an incredible amount of information for your followers. Yes, in a legal but evil way.
Take a look at the offering by Facebook on the right.
Are you scared by the extent to which this company knows about you?
I know I am. And I encourage you to make the most of it, as an evil business consultant.
This method is no longer recommended unless you have big money and no place to spend it.
Considering the lowest click-through rates and the fact that nowadays everyone is able to easily block those ads with help of free tools like Chrome extensions, paid display is inefficient and honestly speaking, annoying.
So which method to choose exactly?
It seems difficult to choose actually. Each method has its own merits and flaws.
To make things easier, you can decide first whether to go with Organic Marketing or Paid Marketing based on costs.
SEO, Blogging & Guest Blogging, Emailing, and Social Media Posting
Paid Search, Paid Social, and Paid Display
Just ask yourself the following two questions:
1, Are you on an extremely tight budget, i.e. less than $250 per month? This means around 150 search engine clicks and potential…contacts based on the conversion rates which might differ according to sectors.
2, Do you prefer to wait for at least 6 months with almost zero traffic generated during this period? Don’t be shocked. Certain startups have limited productivity.
If the answer to any of the two questions is “yes” then, go with organic marketing. It will be sufficient for you to attract enough amount of traffic over time, even in the beginning it is exhausting and inefficient.
In addition, once you decide to do organic marketing, you might as well pick up the whole package including SEO, Blogging & Guest Blogging, Emailing, and Social Media Posting.
The methodology and resources necessary for those techniques are similar and therefore by adopting all you are just multiplying results.
You can totally skip the content about paid marketing in the following chapters to save some time.
However, if the above situations do not apply to you, please choose both ways. A combination of multiple methods is able to maximize leads for you while you are in different phases of the marketing strategy execution.
For example, in the first 6 months, organic marketing probably won’t generate sufficient leads since it takes a long time to create quality content, which serves as a vital element to boost search engine ranking.
It can be hard in the beginning, faced with all those information bombs I imagine. But as you dig deeper into different methods you will gradually find the ones that best suit you.
Don’t forget you can always A/B test your strategy and adapt.
As a startup, simply making the first effort in inbound marketing can already put you in the front tier of competition. Go ahead and put your competitors in Spyfu (Not a business partner of mine) and you will be shocked by the fact that how few small players pay enough attention in marketing.
All in one, bon courage and take the first step now. If it works, you keep it. If not, you switch.
All Roads Lead to Rome