Every freelancer or consultant working in the creation of online content has met this client: The one who is convinced that the simple act of placing a website, video or podcast on the internet will by some form of magic cause it to be viewed by millions of people. Instead of focusing efforts on driving traffic to the content, they expect that they’re doing the online equivalent of placing a Super Bowl commercial. The truth is that unless you’re marketing a cold fusion flux capacitor plug-in to your DeLorean, whatever you’re selling has already been done by others, likely with larger budgets and more experience. When a Google search for Bird Feeders brings up 6.5 million results, the question that remains is what your startup can bring to the web that will rise above the fray. Here are the top five ways to ensure that your online startup will soar instead of stink.
1. Don’t Even Think of Skipping a Business Plan
Starting any venture without a business plan is tantamount to jumping out of a plane without a parachute. Even if you are not seeking to raise capital, a business plan allows you to visualize the various aspects of your startup so that you can complete an accurate competitive analysis. You may find through your research that your concept to market maple syrup-soaked snuff has already been done… and failed.
2. Niche Down & Down
It can confidently be stated that there is no such thing as horizontal marketing on the internet, as it’s all narrowly vertical if not outright niche-y. If your desired market segment is already dominated by multi-billion dollar brands, you can be secure in the knowledge that confronting them head-on results in one success for every several million crash-and-burns. Niches and sub-niches are where the accessible online markets reside. If your field is crowded with velvet snow shovel covers, try hand-knitted versions. If those are already on the market, niche down to hand-knitted personalized covers.
3. Realistically Budget for Your Website
Google has been fighting a pitched battle against the search engine optimization (SEO) crowd, and the Googleplex is winning. By hitting the SEO practitioners with rapid-fire barrages of Googlebot algorithm updates, successful SEO strategies are expiring faster than Kim Kardashian’s marriages. Creating unique, interesting, erudite, value-focused content is the only effective and timeless SEO strategy. If someone arrives at your office guaranteeing a #1 Google position in exchange for cash, either show them the door or better yet call the police.
5. Turn $1 into $40+ with Email Marketing
Pay per click placements such as Google AdWords can be effective albeit expensive, as not everyone who clicks through to your website will convert. Coupons are great if you can afford to sell your product for less than 25% of retail, but unfortunately that is impossible for most startup companies. A much more affordable, efficient and profitable alternative is email and social media marketing where you can efficiently reach your customer base and engage them in the types of two way conversations they prefer. With the Direct Marketing Association stating that every dollar invested in email marketing brings in more than forty dollars in profit, it’s the best promotional channel available to any company whether startup or mature.
Although you may be convinced that your octopus flavored granola bar is going to be the next big snack item, you can’t expect the world to beat a path to your tentacles. The three Ps of effective business planning, practices and promotions will give your startup company the best chances of success, no matter what you’re selling.