By the time we finished the development of our enterprise as programmers and we were ready to upload it online, we realize that it was just the beginning and not the last step of our work as we initially thought.
Unfortunately, the great majority of new online Startups are carried out only by programmers on their own and not by a heterogeneous group of founders with different strengths and abilities.
The main problem is that, as soon as our service is online, a new challenge appears: to generate new clients in a successive form and with a methodology that allows to scale in the medium and long term. For this purpose, it is necessary to develop our knowledge in Online Marketing as we will see below:
1. Personal Contact Marketing
To get started, it is essential to remember that we are neither Nike nor Coca-Cola to advertise in mass media; the truth is that we are just the opposite. If we consciously understand that our reality, as entrepreneurship, is that in which we have to test a new concept that we bring to the world, then the Own Contacts Marketing is the first strategy necessary to generate new customers.
As founders, the first step we did was to develop our service online, and then the second one was to generate new customers for it; however, in the meantime, it is critical to prove that our theory is correct. That is, to analyze whether our product was interesting to the users, frequently used, useful, and, more importantly, whether it actually solved the users’ daily problem.
This first stage in Marketing has as aim to reach all our contacts, from email accounts as Hotmail, Gmail, and Outlook, and from social networks like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Our contacts are not ordinary users for us; instead, they are the most important ones for our project, because based on them, their opinions, suggestions and queries, we will improve our startup step by step until it will be prepared to become a successful enterprise.
At this point in the development of a venture, I would like to refer to Eric Ries, who wrote the methodology “The Lean Startup”. His idea is really important and also quite simple, instead of developing our service in the way we think it should work, it would be better if we could sit with our customers and based on our initial prototype, observe how they interact with the product and, based on that, improve it.
Nobody is going to know more than the customers themselves about what they need and like. Learning from them is crucial.
A recommendation for this first Marketing step is to reach the contacts one by one by name, even if this step takes a whole week of work. We cannot be just another email in their inbox. We need to differentiate ourselves and encourage them not only to use our services but also to give us their opinions. And to achieve this we must first put in the time and dedication required.
2. Niche Marketing
If the first stage of the development of our product, the prototype was tested and improved based on customer feedback, it is time to move to the second step where the enterprise is going to be presented to everyone. Nevertheless, being realistic, the first media that we will contact will not be the New York Times or CNN.
It is important to understand that there are millions of enterprises like ours and that we have to take small steps at a time. The position we already have should be more efficient; this means that we should use Media such as blogs, local news sections, magazines and forums which our segments consume and on the vertical of action in which we specialize (sportswear, food, technology, etc.).
Forgive me, but I have to be realistic: companies like Facebook, Google, and Yahoo, among others, are just exceptions. It is great to have them as ideal examples for the future, but it could be a mistake to think that our success will come from overnight. As an entrepreneur, I’m on the side of the statement “The day to day work is the only way of progress”.
I wanted to make reference to this because: after we start with the online service, get some customers and improve our final product, we realized that we have a venture that does not grow exponentially by itself as television “showed”. And this situation does not mean that we were doing things wrong.
Nobody is going to enter to a website magically, even though we do everything all right. To achieve that, we need some effort, time and dedication (exactly all three features): effort, to contact one by one the local media and industry segment; time, to convince them; and finally dedication, to follow up on them until they cover our work.
Finally, at this point I would like to emphasize that the best option is to tell a story and not just cite the actual characteristics of our service. A story sells; instead, the service characteristics (speed, programming language, etc.) do not carry interest in a competitive market. We need to tell a story, from how we started, to which our problems and mistakes were, how we got through them and what our plan to grow in the future is; this is what journalists and readers want and that is what we must understand and offer.
3. Technological Marketing
I name this step in that way because I want it to be understood that we, as founders and programmers, have this powerful tool at our disposal and we are privileged for this. Compared to our non-technological competitors, we were able to understand how the algorithms of search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo works, and that gave us the opportunity of implement marketing methodology.
In the image above, it can be seen how we implement SEO—Search Engine Optimization—, that is the tool we use to generate new long-term customers. I mean long term, because in more than one or two years we are going to see significant results. We must work with a lot of dedication to succeed.
SEO should be first studied and then implemented. It does not end there: it must be then measured, analyzed and studied again because it changes almost every month and finally it must be implemented again with the improvements made. It is a continuous improvement and adaptation process to the search engines.
In the example, you can see how SEO is successfully implemented, consistently repeating the purpose of the website, in this case “Car Insurance”. It is the way you transmit to the search engines what our enterprise is. In several key locations:
For this last point, I want to recommend the SEOMOZ community, where we find videos, tutorials and guides to learn SEO for free. They have great quality and are an excellent starting point for all entrepreneurs that are self-struggling to grow and succeed in their daily work.
Article by Cristian Co-Creator of elMejorTrato.com, a new endeavor in Argentina, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil.