The Internet and social media has changed the way people do business. Old ways of doing PR and Marketing such as press releases, banner ads, media advertising popups and hard selling to subsequent sales leads are being replaced with ‘New Marketing’ where customers are self-discovering, self-educating and self-selecting. The new way of attracting potential customers is to pull them in rather than push them to buy. When customers contact you they should only need a small nudge rather than large push to get them to buy.
For example, press releases rarely work any more unless you are a large brand that has the gravitas to demand journalists’ attention. If you don’t believe me, try a press release. You will almost certainly receive more solicitations from marketing agencies and press release services than mentions and subsequent enquiries regarding your offering. Similarly, chasing weak leads, cold calls and hard selling have poor effectiveness unless you have a monopoly in something. Instead, as a ‘New Business‘, the best way to compete is to provide the best information related to what you are offering.
Understand Your Potential Customers
While PR and Marketing have changed, the pre-requisites haven’t. You need to:
- Know the goals of your new business or new product.
- Know the expected types of customer.
- Know where they go (in the digital space and offline). Know what publications they read, what kinds of media and social media they consume.
- Know what problems they wish to solve.
- Know what drives and excites them personally and business-wise.
You need to get inside the heads of each of the types of potential customer. When I worked in mobile, I found the most successful new businesses were those who had a domain expert on the team. They implicitly knew what the target customers were looking for, what problems they needed to solve, where they hung out and what might trigger them to buy.
Without a domain expert, you will need to search out potential types of customer at places such as Quora, Reddit, LinkedIn and other forums. In the case of places like LinkedIn you will have join industry specific forums.
Tip: Consider setting up a web site/blog to attract early adopters even before your product is ready. These people will be keen and you can use them as your domain experts, beta testers and potential first customers.
Read publications and visit conferences to mine the problem area and understand how your potential customers think. Conference topic headlines can also be very revealing. Don’t make the mistake of visiting your industry conferences rather than their industry conferences. For example, if you are selling an IoT widget, don’t go to IoT conferences where you will only meet your contemporaries. Instead visit, for example, a logistics or health conference to gain domain knowledge for specific verticals. While there, befriend a few random people to gain insights.
Collect keywords along the way. Not just keywords and synonyms for your product solution but, just as importantly, keywords that describe the problems potential customers want solved. For each type of customer, determine what problems they want to solve, their subset of keywords, what things are important to them for your product/solution and where they go online.
The correct keywords are vital. They will drive Adwords advertising, search engine optimisation (SEO) and content production.
Use Adwords, even if you are not advertising, to create what Google thinks are related keywords. Use UberSuggest and Adwords Keywords Planner Landing Page to analyse the keywords your competitors are using. Use Google Trends to get a feel for the relative popularity of keywords.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Search Engine Optimisation is the refining of your web page content such that Google is more likely to rank it highly. This isn’t about surreptitious techniques to fool the search engine into ranking you highly. It’s an exercise in making the best experience for the user.
At it’s simplest, successful SEO comes through providing the best content. Great content trumps everything else. For instance, it’s best to have great content with a poorly designed site than poor content with great web design.
The value of content is that, once created, it lives longer than hours or days. I have found that some content has lasted decades. Unlike old style lead generation, it’s not like a tap that gets turned off when there’s no-one working. If you are additionally able to engage in a continuous content effort, Google will see the regularity of new useful information, people linking to this information and rank you one of the highest.
Other factors include:
- How many people link to the content. If it’s great content, people will link to it with very little effort on your part.
- The time people spend on your web page.
- How often your site produces new content and updated old content.
- The speed of your web pages.
Technical Tip: I recommend you create your own web site or blog on your own dedicated server residing in target geographical region. If you have multiple geographic regions then consider using a CDN. For your server, choose a fast (SSD) disk. Really. Don’t rely on posting on other sites, social media sites, or shared servers where the action of others can and will affect the availability or effectiveness of your content. Own your valuable content and don’t put it in the control of other companies who might not have the same aspirations for your content. With everything under your control you can also see all the analytics and full control where people go having read your information. This isn’t to say don’t post on social media such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and SnapChat. Instead, post lots of excerpts and links. Include in posts, discussions and comments.
- Whether the content is adapted for mobile viewing.
- Content metadata such as having, sitemaps, h1 tags for titles, alt text for images, image names describing what they are, metadata in web page headers and links to authoritative sites.
While content usually resides in web pages it can, and should, include webinars, videos, podcasts, eBooks, cheat sheets and infographics. Mention things such as background information, solving problems, general industry issues, case studies and even comments on other companies’ content. Provide content around titles such as ‘How to …’, ‘Top …’, ‘Free …’, ‘Secret …’, ‘… Tips’.
For more specific content ideas, search Google to see what people are talking about in your industry. Visit places like Feedly and Reddit to gain more topics. Get involved in new related industry issues in the news. Include the topics in stories around your products and services.
Remember content trumps design? An extension of this is that long articles trump short ones because Google measures how long readers stay reading the content. However, don’t make the mistake of creating meaningless sentences for the sake of it. There are too many web sites, usually managed by media agencies or outsourced content creation services, that just say nothing. Lots of fluff, repetition and no fact. Impart some knowledge otherwise people won’t read your article and it will be seen as a ‘bounce’ by Google. If you can’t create a long article, a good short one is better than one that imparts no knowledge.
If you can only create small articles then use other ways to keep readers on your site. Include lots of internal links. Have a ‘related articles’ section at the end of every piece of content to encourage visitors to stay and read more.
When writing content include keywords you previously discovered. Include them many times, in the titles, web page URLs, images and paragraphs. Again, include them naturally otherwise you will risk alienating the reader.
Write articles to specifically target insights you gained on your target customers. Cover problems they wish to solve and things that drive and excite them.
Weave trust-related information into content such as naming clients, example, case studies, testimonials and other such client related information.
Don’t lock content behind, for example, email capture schemes. You will loose too many potential customers and waste your efforts. Capturing emails and jumping on leads is old style marketing. Remember, new business isn’t hard sell.
This next one has been a hard lesson for me – Don’t hide information because you think competitors might learn too much. The loss in customers isn’t worth of risk that others will copy you. They probably won’t copy you anyway as they have their own agenda.
Customers need to determine if your offering is suitable and self pre-qualify as far as possible. For example, if you don’t sell to certain types of customer then say so. By the time they contact you they will be just about there in terms of the sale and have a high probability of being a suitable customer.
Include action items in your content such as links to your offering(s). Include these naturally in sentences as ‘more information’ rather than old style ‘buy this now’ actions.
Promote Your Content
As previously mentioned, promote your content on social media. This shouldn’t be ‘post and forget’. Instead, weave additional mentions into comments on other peoples’ posts and conversations related problems you have previously identified that your potential customers need to solve. Come back later and respond to comments. The social platforms see the interaction and promote such post more highly in timelines.
When posting content that mentions other companies or organisations, include them in the social media conversation. You will often find they will re-share your content to a potentially large number of followers that were outside your reach. Indeed, identifying such companies in your industry and commenting usefully on their news is a great way to occasionally target the generation of content.
Don’t under-estimate the value of any existing content which is already indexed by Google and will provide extra traffic if updated. Update this old content to include the aforementioned keywords. Re-write articles to make them more immersive, relevant and timely. Fix any dead web links. Don’t delete content but instead redirect it (http 301) to newer more relevant content.
Swap old style lead generation and hard sell for new contemporary self-service which people, especially younger generations, are increasing expecting. Create useful content with information to attract, educate, assure and persuade potential customers. If you follow these tips, your new business marketing department will look more like a professional publishing department.