Thinking about how you will get customers, and testing those channels, is arguably more important than creating the product or service in the first place. Smart entrepreneurs will do discrete tests early on in the product development phase to see if specific marketing channels are likely to drive the required volume of traffic – this will cost a little money up front, but it is much better to know early rather late whether you can access customers at an affordable cost and if they actually want your product.
What channels are there?
The authors of “Traction” have identified 19 marketing channels. Their most interesting assertion is that most successful firms find one channel that delivers 80 per cent of growth – so it’s potentially less about what mix of marketing channels you should use and more about finding the one channel that just works for your business. The authors also assert that it is not always obvious which channel will be the killer one for you –sometimes firms are most successful when using channels that are not widely utilised in the industry (where direct competition is lowest).
Here are the some of the example channels that they have identified:
Targeting blogs that focus on your sector
If your business is about something people are passionate about (photography, cycling, etc.) then there will likely be lots of niche blogs with loyal readers. Bloggers are always looking at ways to monetise their blogs and their sites provide a good opportunity to either write a guest blog, submit paid advertorial or buy some display adverts.
You don’t need to hire a PR Agency to get publicity. If you have an interesting story (ideally with a human element) then you can reach out to tech or local journalists and they may write something about you. Unconventional PR requires some very clever thinking. Leo Vegas got some great coverage when it ran a competition for a customer to win the first i-Phone 6 available for purchase in the UK. It just made sure it had someone first in the queue.
Search engine advertising (Google AdWords)
This can provide a very quick temperature check on consumer interest in your product or service. You can create a series of ads to run against specific search terms typed into Google. You only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad, and you have complete control over how much you spend each day. If your website already sells your product or services, or if you can capture data on likelihood to purchase, you can then get a sense of your conversion rates.
Read more marketing-related articles:
Social and social display ads
It’s becoming increasing hard to get unpaid coverage on social media. Facebook recently announced that it is further prioritising posts from friends over businesses. However, social media can be effective for display ads because you can target the audience very precisely using Facebook’s demographic and interest data – which is great if you know what your target customer looks like. If you’re opening a high end burger chain in Bristol, it’s a fantastic way to reach potential customers – for example, 16-40 year olds in the area who already “Like” similar brands such as Byron Burger or GBK.
Offline ads (TV; radio; magazines; newspapers; billboards; direct mail; door-drops)
These are the more traditional channels – and traditionally, they can cost a lot of money. TV is great for launching a new product or brand, but it does require at least £200,000 to create a quality ad and test key channels. For small firms, a niche magazine or newspaper can work well, while a radio ad campaign can be bought for just a few hundred pounds on smaller local stations.
Search Engine Optimisation
If you can be ranked on page one of google for your important keywords you’ll acquire warm leads to your website “for free”. However, it takes a lot of time and effort to optimise your website and cultivate links to your pages. SEO is likely to be an ongoing and long-term marketing effort (unless you have very niche keywords) – but it can reap significant rewards, with a recent study by Moz revealing a massive 71 per cent of searchers click on first page organic results (ie not an ad).
Content marketing is about producing genuinely informative and useful information that will drive traffic and potential customers to your site. It also positions your company as a thought leader in the space. A widely used option is to write reports on your space and distribute them in return for an email address. You can then provide further content through ongoing email campaigns, which keeps you front of mind for when someone is ready to purchase.
Figuring out which marketing channels work best for you will be a process of trial and error. But if you start by thinking about your customer and when they’ll need your product or service, followed by where they’re likely to search for or stumble across you, that should give you an order of priority for your testing strategies. Remember too that your marketing shouldn’t only focus on customer acquisition. While this is absolutely critical in the very early stages, you’ll need to rapidly think about what your customer retention strategies look like too. It’s far easier to keep a customer than recruit a new one, so identifying your best customers and advocates will be key to driving momentum and achieving that all-important critical mass.
Al Taylor is founder and CEO at www.tootle.co.uk, a platform helping match consumers selling their car with dealers looking to source that particular type of vehicle.Elsewhere, four businesses explain why now is the time to think differently about marketing.Image: Shutterstock
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