Digital Strategy for a Startup

Scott Snowden
Scott Snowden
Business & Technology Strategy
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One of my regular routines is to have lunch (or a coffee or a beer…) with someone starting a new business. It's fun. I love finding out about people's different interests. Often, when someone is thinking becoming an entrepreneur they will do something related to their existing career. But, at other times the venture is truly new and different.

 

This post was written after a recent conversation with someone launching their own business. The topic of conversation was how to market the business efficiently and effectively (aka minimizing cost).   

Start with Word of Mouth

Successful startups build clients by establishing trust. As your business grows, the trust that you establish will boost your reputation and sales. In the early days, your network typically isn't that broad and your reputation hasn't been broadcast very far.

 

So, where do you start and how do you amplify your reputation quickly?

Ask for two contacts

Start with your most trusted, inner circle of friends, family and acquaintances - the people who trust you implicitly. The one thing you want out of talking to each of those contacts is… more contacts. When you meet with someone, always ask them to introduce you to two more people. In an ideal world, the result is an exponential growth of people to talk to. Of course, it won't work that way - not everyone will give you two contacts and not all the contacts you're given will turn into meetings and more contacts. But I promise - you'll quickly end up with a list of more people than you have time to meet with. A good problem to have.

 

Besides asking for more contacts, what do you want when you meet someone new?

Ask for advice

Take note: the key objective of your initial meetings is NOT asking for business. You're asking for more contacts. Why? Because you want advice. It's the soft sell. People won't give up their contacts if they feel you're going to be a pushy salesperson. That rarely is the case, but the threat of that possibility means people will guard their contacts. So save the sell for later. Start talking to people about their experiences, share your business story, strategy, ideas and get advice (and more contacts). Along the way it's likely someone will also end up as a client.

"Ask for money, get advice // Ask for advice, get money twice" 



How do you stay on top of all these names?

Keep a list - try using MailChimp

It's important not to just follow this trail of contacts from one to the next hoping some business falls in your lap. As you start to build up your contacts, you have to write them down. You could use a spreadsheet, your email address book, or pen and paper. But I'd recommend you use MailChimp. MailChimp is free for a list of under 2,000 contacts. (At Flywheel we actually default to using Campaign Monitor because it seems to be more user friendly, but MailChimp is free for small lists sizes). 

What are you going to tell people that are interested what you have to offer?

Keep your website simple

"The more you explain it, the more I don’t understand it." - Mark Twain

 

A lot of entrepreneurs fall down a rabbit whole of thought and reflection when it comes to setting up their website. The agony and effort that goes into saying all the necessary things on their website is astounding. When you are starting out your website should be very simple:

  • Use clear, concise messaging

  • Provide contact information in an obvious place

  • Ask for the sale… actually tell people you're going to help them and encourage them to get in touch.

Use MailChimp to embed a form that asks people for their email address (easy to do). But, you need to promise them AND deliver a newsletter. It's easier to do this than you might think.

Okay, great - I’ve been talking to people and they have a website to read, but aren’t I supposed to be tweeting all the time too???...

Social Marketing: Keep it Manageable

With Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so many other social networks out there, creating social content and managing your accounts can be daunting. Here are some rules for keeping on top of it:

  • Be genuine. You've heard that before, I'm sure but, it's so critical. Just be yourself and post content that is meaningful and interesting to you.

  • Start with just one social network and start with the one that you know you will use the most. If you don't have your own favourite, then use the one that's most appropriate for your business.

  • Write down a list of the common questions you get about your business and start your social updates by gradually answering those questions.

  • Take a moment to like, share and follow other accounts. Many people forget that step.

  • Be genuine (oh yeah, I already mentioned that).

You’ve put forth a great effort at this point. Now tie it together with a newsletter that you send out as often as you can.

Stay Top of Mind

This part is important. If you're not in someone's thoughts in that moment when they need your services, you may easily miss an opportunity.  Remember all of those email addresses that you captured? You need to keep in touch with them. If you have been doing your social marketing, then a newsletter is pretty easy to produce regularly by doing a recap of the topics and posts that you've been posting on social media. Use your newsletter to quickly highlight and link out to that content you've already written. You don’t need to do this frequently, but you need to do it regularly. I would recommend a newsletter goes out at least quarterly (more frequently if you can).

That's the plan, and you're energized - so how do you stick to the plan?

Book Time to Work on it

At Flywheel we have found that the most effective way to keep up with our own marketing is to treat this like another client project - and book time for it. We will block time to work individually on our own blog posts and other content.  We will also get together as a team to regularly review progress, brainstorm and get creative. It's very helpful. Perhaps for you this is best done on a Friday (like we do at Flywheel), or early in the morning, or over lunch. Figure out what works best for you and be very strict about it. Treat that time as a client meeting that you wouldn't even consider rescheduling.

It is very practical to maintain the efforts outlined in this post by committing an hour per day (or half a day a week, or a full day every couple of weeks). Make sure that as the strategy starts working you stick to it. And of course, you can always  hire some help

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