This is the third post in our series about the strategic and marketing plan for Nelio Content. If you missed the previous two, go and read them right now—you’ll learn about how the idea came to be and the goals we set for this new product. And here you have the links to all post so you don’t miss any of them:
- The Idea
- Strategic Objectives
- Marketing Training
- Marketing KPIs
- Buyer Persona
- SEO Strategy
- Web Content
- The Blog
- Social Media and Emailing
Nobody is born trained. And no entrepreneur knew what he needed to know to create his first company. Why am I saying this? Well, in our case we didn’t know much about marketing—we are PhDs in computer science with a strong technological background, not marketing specialists. This is a problem, for we must understand how marketing works, if we aim to create a successful business. Today I’d like to talk about marketing and, in particular, all you should know about it.
As recommended by business angels and other experts in investment forums, when creating a startup, the ideal would be to have a perfectly balanced team in place with experts in all basic areas of the company. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. But don’t despair! If you don’t have a balanced team, just focus your efforts on doing the minimum amount of preparation in those areas essential to the profitability in your startup. These, of course, include the area of Marketing.
Some people think that marketing is not that important—if you’re able to create an outstanding and amazing product, it’ll sell itself, right? But that’s simply not true. In the IESE Acceleration Workshop we participated in, in June of 2015, we were told that “investment in software development is only about 20% of the total, while the remaining 80% goes into marketing.”
So, if you (like us) lack of a marketing expert, you have two options: either hire an expert in marketing for the startup, or spend many hours of reading and learning about the topic. We opted for the second option.
There is lots of very interesting information on marketing written by professionals with extensive experience in the matter. In fact, the big problem is that there is a brutal level of infoxication (another word I like, by the way). I.e., there is such an information overload that you don’t know where to start.
So in this post I’ll try to tell you what to us has been most useful to achieve “the minimum requirements” that we need, in the order in which I would have liked to learn it. This post doesn’t pretend to be a marketing guide for startups—I’ve tried to be very selective to make it brief, which means many good articles might be missing (if they weren’t, I’d be infoxicating you, wouldn’t I?). Anyway, if you think that I should include some key article, just let me know!
Before you start a marketing plan, you have to know what strategy you want to apply. But if you start with a small business or blog, instead of starting to read about the theory of marketing (which I do not doubt can be very interesting), it seems to me more pragmatic to start with an idea of who the leaders are in online marketing. From that point, it’s always easier to find useful information.
References for Digital Marketing
If you’re looking for articles on people who are experts in digital marketing or social media, you’ll find many. And the good news here is that you’ll soon see that they are quite in agreement with each other.
If I have to choose any references for inclusion, the articles My Top 33 Digital Marketing Blogs by Jay Baer and 50 Social Media Marketing Influencers to Follow by Lee Odden are pretty good. And if you want to review their blogs and have the resources to devote hours of study, you won’t come up short. Another interesting list can be found in Top 50 Online Marketing Influencers to Watch in 2019.
Following all this resources and keeping up to date gets pretty crazy quickly. In order to organize this a little bit, I created in Feedly (an RSS reader that allows you to organize and quickly access all the news and updates of the various blogs) a marketing collection for myself. It includes many references from the above lists and some more that I’d like to read, such as Occam’s Razor, by Avinash Kaushik. I have also created collections with articles on other topics such as entrepreneurship and WordPress. Doing so is very simple. Indeed, it’s terrific for a quick weekly peek at updates on the topics you follow and to find those that may particularly interest you.
Attraction, content, and inbound Marketing
After reading several articles by the gurus listed above and having some experience with our startup, we learned that the marketing strategy for a startup like ours goes, yes or yes, by applying what is called Inbound Marketing or Attraction Marketing or Content Marketing. Watch out! These three concepts are not exactly the same, as there are important differences between them, as explained in The Difference Between Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing (and Why It Matters) by Joe Chernov. But the idea behind them is not so different.
HubSpot invented the name Inbound Marketing. They didn’t invent something totally new to marketing; they “simply” named the concept. In a few words and with little rigor, it refers to marketing techniques aimed at increasing the number of visitors to your website, blog, or social profile, so they become leads, i.e., people who give you their contact details and are therefore easier to turn into customers.
The basic idea is that, as a startup, developing a very good product (this is our case, of course, thanks to David and Toni,?) isn’t enough to make them buy. The internet world is so big that you need to focus on:
- identify who your potential customer is (we’ll talk about buyer personas),
- generate content on solutions to problems, concerns, or needs of your potential customers to find your website,
- from there, get them to give you their contact details,
- continue to provide information about what they are interested in and need,
- gain their confidence,
- give them the solution to their problems (which is supposed to be your product or service),
- make sure that you continue to improve in their interests, and
- validate your campaigns with analysis metrics to continue improving all this.
To have a little more general view on this subject, you can watch almost 5 hours of videos by HubSpot. You can even get certified by HubSpot (add another extra hour; I did it and it’s easy). You can also get an idea of all the subjects in the videos in the Inbound Study Guide for the exam.
Alternatively, if you want to spend fewer hours, you can also read the article, How Inbound Marketing Works, From Start to Finish by P by Pamela Vaughan, for an overview of the topic.
But if you want to become a great expert in marketing, consider to take any of the 20+ Free Online B2B Marketing Certification and Courses by Luke O’Kelley or 26 Free Online Marketing Courses: Learn to be a Marketing Mastermind by Megan Marrs.
Let’s take a look at the steps you should take to apply an Inbound Marketing Strategy. I’ll focus on what I think is most important, but you’ll find a lot of references along the next paragraphs to seek more information, if you feel like it.
In Inbound Marketing, the first thing that must be done is to identify and define your buyer persona, or potential client, to design the most effective marketing activities (well, we’ve first defined our marketing KPIs). The idea is, you should create one or more profiles, or portrait robots, of your potential customers with demographic data (age, position,…) and other more psychological details of behavior or way of life, with the aim that you target your content to improve the lives of these people. Since this is an important topic, we’ll discuss it in more detail in a subsequent post.
If you can identify these persons well and understand their preferences, it will be much easier to find and contact them, and communicate with them about those issues they’re interested in. Note this makes perfect sense: If you want to attract traffic to your website, you need to know who you’re targeting.
One of the most interesting articles on this subject is this: How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business [Free Persona Template] by Pamela Vaughan.
Web (WordPress + Design + SEO + CRO)
The web is the first impression of you. And usually you will only have one chance to make a good first impression. In other words, it’s a key point within your plan’s content. So make sure works! Some of the key concepts you should bear in mind when creating a website are:
- Base it on a powerful, easy-to-use platform.
- Optimize it for SEO.
- Use a beautiful design…
- …and, as mobile traffic is getting more and more attention, make sure it’s responsive too.
- Tweak your conversion funnels.
In our case, we decided to use WordPress for creating our site (no surprise here, since our business is based on WordPress). It’s one of the best platforms for running a website effortlessly, with tons of customization options. Besides, there’s plenty of manuals and tutorials WordPress, which means you can easily learn How to make a WordPress Website – 2015.
Making a website attractive is a matter of knowing current trends on design and realizing that they’re changing faster than what we would like. Here’s an example of a fairly complete recent article: 6 Web Design Trends You Must Know for 2015 & 2016 by Jerry Cao. Also, if you need some inspiration, you may take a look at 52 Breathtaking Landing Pages, all of them in WordPress. You can create a simple WordPress blog with a beautiful premium or free theme, even if you’re not a WordPress expert.
But if you really want to go the extra mile, you have to take a few more steps. That is, if you don’t have a designer on your team (not to be confused with programmer), but you can afford one, hire an expert! Your site always is and will be the first impression of you and your company. Moreover, if you want your site to be optimized for SEO, you’ll have to make sure it loads fast, it offers an optimal user experience both in desktop and mobile, it contains high-quality content… that is, you’ll probably need expert advise.
Last, but not least, you’ll also have to make sure that the website is optimized for conversion (CRO), i.e., the design and content of the web lead your visitors to do what you want them to do (that is, buying a product, subscribing to your newsletter, and so on). To do this, the best marketing technique is to conduct A/B tests.
The key in Inbound Marketing is to generate content across all digital channels so that the person seeking information comes to your website and ends up becoming your buyer. To generate traffic to your site not only means having a website designed that is optimized for SEO. Therefore, I would like to briefly highlight the issues that now seem most important related to traffic generation.
You can only generate traffic to your website if you have high quality content. Sure, you can pay for ads, but in the long run you must focus on the content. That’s why your blog is the King. If you don’t know how to run a successful blog, take a look at The Advanced Content Marketing Guide by Neil Patel and Kathryn Aragon.
Promotion in Social Media and Email
Once you’ve created the most wonderful content on your blog, you either get some visibility (and ideally make it viral) or all your work may fall on deaf ears. When you go looking for information on how to promote your content on social networks and contact your potential customers by email, you’ll find lots of information. On this subject I particularly like the following infographic, which is very complete:
SEM pay-per-click (PPC)
Usually, the people that come to your site found it in a search engine. That is, they’re looking for information in Google or Bing or put-your-favorite-search-engine-here and, if your content appears among the 20 (or, better yet, 10) top results, they may see it and click on the link. It’s not easy to appear among the first results (it takes time), but if you have the budget for it, you can pay for ads that will appear in the search results when people look for certain keywords.
To understand what SEM (Search Engine Marketing) is and how it works, read Search Engine Marketing: What It is & How to Done it Right by WordStream, which is a good start.
And we can’t miss the other critical point (and many times, “the tough nut to crack”), the analysis of the impact of all the marketing activities you’re carrying out.
Google Analytics is not an easy world. I took a 20 hours Web Analytics course in Barcelona Activa, read enough articles on the blog of the world guru in this topic: Avinash Kaushik, author of Occam’s Razor, and read part of his book. But to become an expert on the subject, I think that I would almost need to dedicate myself exclusively to it and complete a good and long season.
The purpose of this post was to give an overview of the concepts that I believe are most important to create a marketing plan for our product, taking into account the resources we have. I have no doubt that there are many issues we’ll be learning every week—this is just part of the charm of creating a startup.
Featured image by Sebastien Wiertz