Your idea? Genius.
Your site? Gorgeous. Your content? Engaging and informative. So where is everybody?
If you’re like most startups, to some extent, you’re bootstrapping, and your budget for marketing your business isn’t exactly … in existence. You pioneered your entire business, right? Can’t you bootstrap your marketing too.
Well, yes and no. Even if your content is so legendary and your product is so earth-shattering that they will market themselves, the idea that content can be strong enough to create an audience in a vacuum is false.
And for your marketing to be effective, you’ll have to remember that someone has to expend some combination of time, effort and expense to get it started. For some lucky souls, marketing will be as simple as some networking and handing out a few business cards.
For the 99% of us that live on the outskirts of reality, we know we have to put our backs into it, so to speak.
So you’ll set up your blog, generate some buzz, write for some top shelf publications and wait. Things may even go well for a while. But why does it seem to stop? Or worse yet, why are so few people showing up to support you?
Here are some basics about getting yourself visible on the web that aren’t widely written about any more, mostly because it’s assumed that everyone starting out knows these things.
Blogging is more than putting up blog posts
To truly get the best efforts out of blogging, you must be ready to embrace the entire blogosphere. That means
- writing about and linking to other bloggers,
- reading their posts and leaving comments,
- responding to comments people leave on your site,
- squelching the urge to moderate comments until your site is popular
- supporting other bloggers through promotion of their projects on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- put up a newsletter subscription box and periodically mention it
…you get the idea. The less you make the exercise all about you, the more you get people on your side, promoting your message. Craziest thing, but it really is true.
Say something epic. Everywhere.
We covered having great content a couple of sentences in. But it’s not just about the content itself, it’s about what your company “says”, how your product speaks to the marketplace, as well as how you express that consistently through the marketplace.
The reason why branding is such a big deal to iconic companies is that people from attachments to the brands they support. Have a look at Apple. Their fans are frevently, almost viciously not just supportive pf but protective of the brand.
If you want the techie audience, let your content and the way it is arranged appeal to techies. If you want an audience over a certain age that wants information without all the fancy dressings, set up your site in a way they’ll adore.
Have your whitepapers, presentations, videos, blog post, articles, and website reflect that. Give your company an epic identity that makes a statement, one your core audience reacts to, then infuse everything your company does with that persona.
Self promotion is a service, not a sin
All of us are reluctant to promote ourselves if it’s going to make us look like that one douche-y acquaintance who spams everyone about their brand new MLM company and how it’s going to change the world. No one has the heart to explain to the poor sap that he’s just spamming everyone and you’re hiding his updates from your Facebook stream (OMG – did you know you can do that now, without unfriending? Next article.).
And you don’t want to be that poor sap.
What you don’t realize is that promoting your company effective is all in the approach. You’ve got to get the used car salesman out of your head and replace it with the laid back infiltration of your favorite brand. Because you’re marketing yourself already, whether your know it or not.
Handing out business cards is marketing.
So is networking with people you hope can help you spread the word, as is advertising. What you need is a way to do it more effectively, at a price that is easy on your budget. And it’s simple really.
Educate, entertain and inform. Make the solution to your customer’s problems the star, not your product. Yes, the solution and your product are one and the same.
When your content revolves around solving the small problems your customers have on the way to your solution, you become the trusted advisor, and the obvious choice. For example, let’s say you want to sell new houses to the increasing segment of the market that has chosen to remain single. Maybe you can write about how single people deal with home improvement projects. It’s more difficult to do on a single income, and where there is labor involved, one person may be overwhelmed on a job that is meant for two.
Maybe single people have questions about how much house they should get, or whether they can qualify for the financing for the home they want.
Write into the thought and conversation stream that already exists for these folks. They’re asking these questions in forums. They’re typing them into search engine. They’ve signed up to a Q and A site just to ask that one question.
Be there with the answer.
Be of service in order to promote yourself and people will love your for it – even demand more of it.
The number one area that startups especially are lacking in their marketing is a consistent distribution channel.
For example, a blog post is published. All the appropriate channels have been alerted. Maybe someone shares it once on Twitter or Facebook. And that’s it.
These are all fine steps, but this is not where content marketing stops. No one wants to go to a party someone else isn’t already attending. But what happens until the first guest shows up? How do you kick off the process of building a community around our blog that will share your post and tell others?
No, you don’t want to hound strangers, or even your close friends to retweet you and submit your articles to StumbleUpon.
But if you’ve been doing that for other people, who occasionally do the same for you, it might be smart to send out your tweet about your article when they’re on, after you’ve retweeted one of their posts and made some small talk.
Even if you have to set up a few other employees to automatically tweet company posts, it’s a start.
If you have a commenting system like Disqus or Livefyre, it may be wise to ping people you’ve mentioned in the blog post.
You could start a group of startups on Facebook and encourage members to promote each other’s content.
There are tools like Triberr that will even organize this effort for you, with settings that will allow you to either publish your most trust allies automatically to your stream, or read each and every post before it goes out.
Whether your style is simply to pay attention to people who are willing to help, and hope they’ll return the favor, or deliberately plan out a bit of support with a handful of other people, you need a distribution channel. Content that no one sees is just a wasted effort.
There are, of course, many other areas of web visibility that start ups miss. There’s everything from how to have a search strategy that actually appeals to your audience, to the timing and reasons for press releases.
But correcting these four things is enough to get most people started.