At the early stages of a start-up / small business the decisions and processes that you put in place will effect how profitable it will be. There are easily avoidable steps that you should establish early on with your venture. If not these mistake will end up being very costly. At worst, they could mean the end of your business.
How to avoid these common mistakes is to establish if there is a demand for your product or service. Then deal with how you are communicating it. By holding regular meetings and achieving set goals with your team, you will master how to reach and communicate effectively with your customer. What you learn here is crucial for your online marketing and SEO strategy. Finally, avoid getting distracted on what the competition is doing.
KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER’S WANTS AND DESIRES
You should have anticipated demand in your business plan. You would have asked, what does my product or service answer in the market and why is it different? Why would people buy or use my product instead of someone else?
In most cases the product or service is a novel thing but how it is communicated lacks appeal. Simply, most businesses fail to communicate their solutions to the buyer’s pain – their problem.
Takeaway fix: Use Alex Osterwalder’s lean lean canvas methodology to make a business plan on one sheet of A4. Follow this methodology and ask and answer five why’s about the problem’s your product / service answers and then you will then have a solution for them.
Once you know what and how, finding the right marketing channels and segments should be a lot easier to identify. The beauty of using this methodology means you can test out different approaches. Reaching the right people includes experimenting with marketing different channels. Some companies fail by not using the most appropriate channel, others become reliant on too few.
Takeaway fix: Never become reliant on one channel. If someone copies your approach with more resources, aggression and funding you may not be able to compete. Always experiment, surprise and find where the product fits.
REVIEW YOUR MARKETING STRATEGY GOALS, MEETING REGULARY
- Know Your Status
A lot of SME owners do not know what their present status is. That is what their business is achieving or not. Your business goals is achieved by your marketing strategy. There should be key metrics in it. These ‘incremental goals’ tell you your status. Make sure you regularly review them.
Being ‘results’ hungry always keeps you alive and in the game. Always make sure your marketing and sales team give you meaningful and tangible results from analytics programs, its conversions and multi-channel campaigns. Reviewing your status is looking at your online analytics and finding what worked and why. This will involve some off-line investigation with your team. We will come to this in a bit.
Some business goals and metrics are vacuous. Let us deal with this next.
- Vacuous Business Goals Do Not Make Good Business
Some conversion goals I have heard are to get 50,000 likes on Facebook. These goals may buy you a smile at the bar, but it will not buy your drink.
Conservative goals still mark success, even if it just covers the bottom line. If you achieve goals and your team can account for them – great. Never forget to make internal goals. These goals transmit morale. It keeps your business in the game and it identifies problems early.
- Grow Your Knowledge Capital
At internal meetings get regular product and service feedback from your team. I have seen more profitable companies that incentivise knowledge sharing than, who did the most sales. Being the top sales person can promote competitiveness. It does not amplify profit per employee. So ask from your team, What made that sale successful? What thing nailed it? What else could you have done better? Get this knowledge, share and incentivise it for collective goals.
Product and service feedback is crucial for all to understand customer wants and their throwbacks. For throwbacks it can easily point to product or positioning flaws.
Often sales and marketing teams fail to communicate. Communication helps your marketing team react and make the ‘brands’ message consistent . If certain demographics were converted it will make your team and your product stronger and desirable when everyone is on board. Sharing information between teams is crucial and stops internal arguements.
- Lulls Point To Vulnerabilities
Never think you are not achieving until you understand the market. Lulls may be natural for the product. Saying this is the first stage of getting comfortable in crisis and turning a blind eye to its vulnerabilities. Worse still is promoting a slacker mentality which turn out to be expensive. If your product is seasonal then product diversity is your saviour. Look at how your core products or services may be attuned to seasonal demand. Customer throwbacks may point to what you should be selling.
If you have been wholesale ripping off competitor’s marketing strategy it will come back to bite you. It might be true that being first to market does not mean success. Apple and Microsoft are great examples. Their product was essentially the same as others on the market. They identified and created a unique selling position by positioning. We covered point this earlier with Copying a competitor’s product idea is not the issue. Copying their approach is the issue.
Your business plan should have a unique selling point (USP) or unfair advantage. Your marketing team has to help position this effectively in the market.
Takeaway fix: If you cheated a little with your USP, look at what the competition are doing wrong. In the short term you can gain market share answering those woes. If these problems are intangible make them your USP and brand it!
NOT HAVING OR NOT USING SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION (SEO)
Having a website is a prerequisite of doing business in the modern age. Being one of the first to be noticed, that is appear when doing an internet search is very likely to get business. Many generation X business question me about its worth. Back in the 1980’s businesses used to name the business to be first in telephone directories e.g A1 Services. When is the last time you used a telephone book? Even if you do not look for something yourself, your co-worker will. You need to be in the game to play the game
- SEO Super Simplified.
Above we covered knowing your client and what they want. Your meetings have identified trends and what turns your clients on-to and off your product. Finally, you know what values you need to project in your marketing and content. With this you have the basis to start a correct SEO strategy.From all the points above, from the internal meetings you should have a good idea of the words, phrases and terms which connect with your buyer. These will help you identify keywords. This will help you make titles, descriptions, and title tags relevant for your clients.
- Outsourcing Your SEO Is Probably Your Best Option For Your Business Early & Mid-Term
Why use an agency to help you formulate a strategy? Having worked in-house and agency side, in-house SEO pros have interference by management who want instant results. An agency with sector SEO experience vs. your competitors is invaluable. They will tell you what do for your own good if you like it or not. New hires will err on the side of not wanting to rock the boat. An in-house SEO pro compromised by management will report what the management want to hear, not what analytics is really telling them.Unless your product or service is in a very small sector niche, SEO rarely brings instant results for a start-up company. It is a long term strategy. For local SEO and if your business serves a district it is possible to make headway a little quicker. From experience, I normally see movement 3-6 months in. In highly competitive markets, I have seen years before a significant movement. Of course,
We hope to have established how to take steps to avoid very costly common mistakes. Ensuring there is demand for your product or service and how to position this correctly by motivating internal communication is the key to a start-up business. Regular meetings help a business interpret its goals and allow it to better itself in lulls. It should always be finding ways to make a profit or reinterpret the market place and how to make a win.
By being honest with your staff, clients and yourself you can form the basis of a winning online marketing and SEO strategy. Copying the competition allows you a little time for movement at the beginning of your venture but it will never allow you to take, hold and maintain your venture.
I welcome your input, comments and suggestions on the points above for future articles. Until then, have a productive day.