If you're wondering what should be on the non-technical guy's checklist, start here.
Includes absolute gold from Mint.com, Neil Patel, Patrick McKenzie, Kissmetrics and more, covers many areas of marketing such as:
- getting press coverage
- Link building
- B2B Marketing
- social media
2. Ask them for an intent to purchase or to reserve a spot in line or whatever.
3. Build landing pages and advertise them so that you can validate your ability to acquire customers before building anything.
4. Create a human machine that looks/feels like the real machine you are going to build later.
5. Sell your fake, semi-terrible, human powered machine that pretends to be your real system until you have enough sales to justify building the real product.
6. Build and sell your real product.
If you do #1-5 before you ever build what you would normally start by building, you'll already have experience selling and marketing your product before you ever actually build it.
Do I get to walk around thinking I have instant validation, or am I rolling the dice on the likelihood that others have the same problem?
That last part is critical. Human psychology is a funny thing. Two people might experience the same pain point, but articulate two wildly different needs. Or they might have tangential pain points, nominally clustered around the same topic. And sometimes, one user's problem is another user's solution. All of these things can happen.
It is totally valid and worthwhile to start with a pain point you have. A lot of startups began that way. But never assume you (n=1) stand in for an entire market. You can't use personal anecdote or self-insight as a proxy for market validation. Not even Steve Jobs got to do that, despite popular misconceptions.
Insight can be a path to validation. A shortcut starting point. But treat it like a hypothesis, not a foregone conclusion. Hypotheses should be tested.
The product I created was a tool for a small niche of artists (of which I was a part). It solved a major problem I had, and I knew that others had the same problem. I even ran it by a few other artists and they loved the idea. What I failed to validate was whether they'd pay for the service. As it turns out, most artists in this niche can't afford to pay even $18/month for a service, and they're just as happy using a manual alternative.
I'm actually working on something right now that started like that. There are a load of large, well established incumbents operating in the market I'm about to try and pitch a tent in but none of them offer a service that does what I want. My gut told me I wasn't the only one who'd prefer my approach to the problem, so I talked to a bunch of people, refined the idea a little, did a load of research and when that all came back positive I quit my job and started building it. I'll let you know how it pans out :)
Having a competitor is a good sign, but how do you know they're profitable? How do you know they're solving the problem well enough that they're even worth imitating? How do you know they're not frustrating the hell out of their users? If you speak to potential customers, you'll know.
Not saying that you need to have full personas, in which you include ALL motivations, demographics, customer journeys - the works - but it helps to have something on paper that you can refer to.
The beauty of it is you can always change them!
No matter how certain you are talk with your customers!
I talk to people, but I need to talk to more.
Don't assume anything, get real leads and/or sales and talk to them about your planned offering and pricing.
http://www.strategicmessaging.com/marketing-communication-es... is on marcom essentials vs. nice-to-haves.
http://www.strategicmessaging.com/marketing-in-stealth-mode/... is specifically on stealth-mode marketing (not quite an oxymoron).
And http://www.strategicmessaging.com/strategy-for-it-vendors-a-... is the strategy (not just marketing) worksheet that a whole lot of tech companies have relied on.
Guest posts on industry blogs - My experience is to make it easy for the person to put the blog up - have a few ideas ready when you contact them. Make it awesome and they'll ask you to write another one.
Advertising is hard and expensive. Repeat advertising is HARD and EXPENSIVE. Its hard to convince people to buy your stuff with ads/landing pages. Its expensive to run ads. Great for driving traffic before you've "earned it" other ways. Measure, measure, measure and iterate. Spend time on different ad variations and turn of the bad ones. An increase in CTR from .05% to .1% doubles your clicks!! Spend some time on a landing page. Make sure you wow these people so you get referrals and stretch every last penny of your ad dollar. Use retargeting - its way cheaper and way more effective. Takes 5 minutes to setup w/Perfect Audience All of these things stretch your marketing dollar farther.
Referrals - ask people to refer you. Or better yet, WOW them and they will do it for you. In my experience, people ARE ok with doing business w/new companies that aren't super polished. Make up for it with ridiculous service and responsiveness.
Taking five minutes to setup a display campaign is a horrible idea for an experienced display buyer, let alone someone who doesn't have years of experience in the space. Lots of DSPs try to make it seem simple enough for Joe Businessowner to setup a display campaign, but that doesn't mean they should.
To go about display buying properly you need:
- A decent budget you are ok wasting to collect your initial data set
- Proper conversion tracking in place
- Ideally an ad server and/or way of measuring the contribution of view through conversions/revenue from a cross-channel attribution standpoint
- Display creative, and ideally multiple variations to test
- Retargeting tags set to take advantage of various list-based tactics
- Etc. Etc. Etc.
Some things like an ad server might be ok to do without if you know what you are doing as the DSPs all have their own you can use these days, but it enables things like exposure-to-conversion reporting which is pretty important.
Advertising in general is indeed hard and expensive, and all too often I see companies who have tossed thousands upon thousands of dollars (sometimes with several zeros appended) on buys that weren't thought out, weren't tracked properly, weren't managed properly, and that they ultimately deemed failures because they don't understand how view-throughs factor into the broader mix.
Source: I do this for a living.
1. Please dear god make it a priority to get your tracking setup properly. At the very least you should have your primary revenue generating action tracked as a conversion goal. Other things you should track are key actions that lead up to this, such as signing up for a free trial, and the various steps involved in that. This gets you into things like event tracking. Google Analytics is fine for this initially, although some newer analytics companies offer some interesting things such as Heap Analytics with their "track everything and worry about defining it later with a WYSIWYG editor" approach. You need to have a crystal clear understanding of your funnel to identify where any problems/bottlenecks are. Just as important are tracking cancellations properly (for SaaS at least) so you can do a proper cohort analysis across various dimensions.
2. If you are starting on AdWords, and you don't have conversion tracking, you are asking for trouble with a handful of exceptions. Read through the entire AdWords help site if you haven't managed an account before. It's a lot, but it is just as technical of a discipline as software development with its own share of intricacies, known issues, workarounds, etc. It is also changing incredibly quickly.
3. For paid search in general, if you have a limited budget start small with a handful of keywords you think are appropriate (including your brand name terms), and keep the number of ad groups/campaigns/ad variations rather small initially. Doing so makes it easier to tell when you have enough data at various levels to begin making optimizations. Additionally, you should keep your bids fairly high initially and focus on driving CTR. Building up a solid Quality Score is priority one for a new account as it determines long-term efficiency and scalability, and CTR is the #1 factor in determining that. Ultimately, this can get you into a positive feedback loop of higher CTR->higher Ad Rank->lower CPCs->lower CPA->higher ROI.
4. Display buying is not a simple thing to learn, and if you don't know how to interpret the data (particularly view-through conversions), you are going to be unhappy and lose money. Ease into it, and understand that it takes time to see an impact. If available inventory/business permits, focus your initial display efforts on particular DMAs or geo targets and see if there is any lift in your brand search query volume on AdWords. That can in some cases give you a sense of if things are working.
5. Understanding what cross-channel attribution modeling is all about is mandatory in this day and age, particularly if you engage with agencies who may not have a vested interest in valuing display view-through conversions at anything less than 100% (seen it happen too many times). If you don't know what attribution modeling is all about, you had best read up on it. In short, it means that just because you see a conversion in AdWords for example, doesn't mean that AdWords should get all the credit for it. Digging deeper into search funnel reports or the awesome Google Analytics attribution and path analysis tools, you'll frequently see other multiple touch points such as organic search, email, social, etc. Certain channels, like social and display, tend to play a larger role at the beginning of the buying process with generating awareness, and attribution models let you get a sense of that. If you have impression and view-through data from an ad server (DFA for example), you can get a much more complete picture of how your display efforts fit into that mix.
6. Don't listen to any gurus or agencies/consultants that claim to know all the secrets of AdWords, or display, or whatever. There is no secret sauce. There is however lots of buried knowledge in various help sites, industry sites, industry forums, etc. and it is a fairly technical discipline that is evolving at a breathtaking pace, so it is easy to get overwhelmed and buy into these promises. Do your due diligence, and properly vet through any such hiring decisions. Ask to see what exactly they might do for your account/business. If they are anything but 100% transparent in their approach, run away. The real value to look for is someone who can execute properly and consistently, and frankly, the knowledge should be given away for free since that alone won't lead to success.
7. Developers--I get that for many of you marketing is this evil misleading thing that you want nothing to do with. We have differences of opinion, and I could show you plenty of examples of marketing done right. Bottom line though is that you should try to avoid the "Field of Dreams" fallacy. If you build it, there is no guarantee they will come. Marketing is what gets you visitors and leads, and then sales and/or your product are what close the deal. Advertising (an aspect of marketing), when done right, is delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time and place. It does not need to be (and shouldn't be) misleading or make false promises.
8. Understand the nature of your advertising placements and traffic sources. Some networks get their traffic from places that makes me highly skeptical of the quality of their inventory. Likewise, some placements just aren't worth the value.
9. Don't waste your time with small targeted direct buys initially. It takes much more time to setup and execute than going through something like the GDN on AdWords or a DSP (once you know what you are doing). These scale MUCH better, will give you more data to optimize against, and in many cases are more cost-effective. If you have a particular placement that is doing gangbusters and want to guarantee more inventory, then and only then should you consider approaching the publisher for a direct deal at a slightly higher CPM than what you are clearing off the exchanges.
10. Many DSPs, ad networks, etc. have minimum monthly spend requirements of $5-10k. Understand that this is done to separate the serious buyers from the rest, and that typically you won't have even close to enough data to properly measure success with a display campaign for less than that (sometimes even with that amount). Display efforts can take time to see the results of, and even more time to reach optimal efficiency.
11. Understand your sales cycle with regards to number of touch points needed, duration, etc. Not much more to say here other than this plays a large role when setting up retargeting properly. Not considering retargeting? You're leaving conversions and dollars on the table. It is some of the lowest hanging fruit in the funnel, and while you might risk paying for unnecessary touch points, odds are you will more than offset this by keeping your brand top of mind over longer sales cycles. Mind your frequency caps though or you will assault your audience with a never-ending parade of your display banners.
12. Believe it or not, some agencies are actually quite good at media buying, and can bring to the table economies of scale even Fortune 50 advertisers can't reach on their own. Sometimes there is a misalignment of incentives, but this almost always comes down to poor scoping during the initial sales process. Understand that agencies are a service-based business, and make sure you are paying for sufficient staffing on your account, otherwise you get what you pay for and don't be surprised if you don't get any love and performance suffers. There are many benefits to agencies, but just as many benefits to building a team in-house, so weigh the pros and cons before making a decision, and make sure you go to RFP with several agencies before hiring one. Don't be afraid to pit them against each other with regards to the things they are telling you.
Anyway, its lunch time, but hopefully this is helpful for some folks here. I truly enjoy helping people with digital marketing, so feel free to reply here with any questions you might have.
You're better focusing on building relationships with influencers in your industry, guest posting on their blogs and asking them for feedback to help build a good product. This in turn will encourage links anyway and make the SEO come naturally.
1. create a slidedeck with lots of visual & publish on Slideshare
2. create blogpost with the slidedeck embedded - remember to test the headlines (e.g. with KingSumo for Wordpress)
3. change the headline in slidedeck & blogpost according to what works best - after we updated the headline on Slideshare one deck went from 1,000 views the first 24hrs to 10,000 views in the next 24hrs (not only due to being featured by Slideshare)
4. share your blogpost on various channels (niche Linkedin groups, twitter etc.) - and don't forget to submit to Buffer (https://buffer.wufoo.com/forms/buffers-awesome-content-colle...). Buffer can really drive traffic & a crazy amount of shares on Twitter.
Let's forget for a moment about links. What's critical is that you build a site that's search engine friendly. Here's what I would concentrate on:
- Unique content, well written (hire a good writer if you can't write the copy yourself).
- Site structure is important. Think of a pyramid type structure where important high level concept pages link to categories that link to subcategories that then link to more specific pages. Some sites only have high level and then category pages, and that's just fine.
- SEO Best Practices. Use unique title tags, heading tags (h1, h2, h3, etc.) and image alt attributes on all images. Link within sentences to other pages on your site.
- If you appeal to an EU audience, then make sure the proper cookie notices are there on the site. See Google's CookieChoices.org.
- Add a blog. Update it regularly with fresh posts, talk to your users. Even if it's just updates about new features. Tweet, +1 and Like your posts (i.e., share them whenever you write a new post.
- Press Releases can still help. Add press release to your own site on your press release page, then distribute.
- News. Add a news page on your site, link out to where you've been mentioned in the news.
- Hire a PR guy or gal. Someone who has contacts in your industry who can help pitch story ideas. SEO isn't just about links and optimizing your content. It's about getting your brand mentioned. A good SEO can optimize a site. A great SEO can get your brand mentioned in the news and drive traffic.
I could get into all sorts of other SEO details, but what's important is to get your site taken care of first. It's got be search engine friendly and crawlable with unique content, though.
I've seen people combine offers with quirky / creative content, which is leveraged via paid StumbledUpon, Twitter and FB advertising to generate brand impressions and traffic.
I've also seen sponsored YouTube content work quite well for startup brands.
Obviously SEO and PPC / displayed are more acquisition channels - but dependent on the goals, these represent good channels for quality / qualified traffic.
But once you've defined the technical aspects of your product-market fit, write a story. The story of why you are doing what you're doing (not how, or where or when.. but why). This story must be true and it should resonate with you so you don't get sick of re-telling it a million time in a million different ways.
Then build that story into your product and find the most frictionless ways of enabling your users to spread that story for you through your product. Finally identify any and all channels where this story might garner a captive audience and go and share that story yourself.
It also makes the short url for you. So you can track on statcounter.com how many people clicked that short url.
It's almost like cheating. A well planned and written article can get you thousands of visits from relevant people to your site. Then some of them visit your main site, some of them sign up for your service, some share your site with their colleagues, etc.
For example, a recent blog post I wrote to help promote my own consulting service brought in ~15,300 visits over this past weekend. The post before that brought ~10,000 visits. A post for a company I work with brought them ~30,000 visits in a day... You get the idea.
I think the more important (and far more difficult) part is writing an article that's interesting enough that it doesn't need a lot of work or trickery to get visits.
In addition to testing your own site, you can also do a usability test for your competitor's site. You might find some interesting marketing ideas that way. :)
Here is a free usability checklist for websites: https://userium.com/
And services like e.g. usertesting.com are great for getting feedback from users.
Rob Walling has a great grid for how to think about marketing based on what your product is: see his blog at http://www.softwarebyrob.com/
Is it Sold on Value? Is the Need obvious? Are people active looking for it?
also check out inbound.org. At the moment Dharmesh Shah has the top post with "how to grow a startup with inbound marketing"
- Guest blog posts
- Answering questions in forums on other websites
- Content marketing
- Getting partners that promote or sell our services
Marketing is the science of bring a product to market. A good marketing plan includes (among other things) initial market research, analysis of the marketplace (the dynamic relationship between companies, products, segments, distribution channels and consumers), finding a product-market fit (defining product design and specifications based on the market analysis and your short,mid and long-term goals), pricing strategy, and finally - promotion strategy.
There are some great (and free) MOOCs on marketing strategy on coursera. I recommend "Competitive strategy" and "Advanaced competitive strategy" by Tobias Kretschmer, if you are not looking to change the world with this great new app you and your friend are hacking together. Checking out "Introduction to marketing" is good if you want a checklist for consumer-driven philosophy. A rule of thumb when taking MOOCs is to use the videos simply as general pointers. If you want to really learn - use the recommended literature.
A lot of good marketing is about figuring out how to position your offering in a way that allows people to talk about your stuff. The marketer is really a facilitator- you have as little and as much influence as that sounds.
The promotional stuff at the end, that's the victory lap, that's the easiest bit. The million (or billion!) dollar question is- who does this matter to, and why, and how do we put it in front of them in a way that makes them agree? The rest is just elbow grease.