There are many factors that need to come together for a startup to succeed. A solid plan, focused mission statement, and experienced founding team are all essential. Even when the internal pieces are in place, you need one more thing to gain momentum quickly: external resources.
Venture capitalists (VCs for short) are a common way for fledgling businesses to fund the earliest stages of business formulation and growth. However, this kind of startup funding isn’t free, nor is it easy to access.
You need to court VCs the right way if you want them to fund you. One of the best ways to do that is through growth marketing. This is an effective, affordable form of marketing that can help you gain the eye of VCs no matter what startup stage you’re in.
Here are a few tips and suggestions to help an entrepreneur secure venture capital funding.
Understand What a VC Is in the First Place
The term “venture capitalist” puts a certain degree of emphasis on the individual — and in a sense, that’s true. When you seek VC funding, you are interacting with venture investors.
When you break it down, though, a venture capital investor provides more about the specific resources (including, but not limited to cash) rather than the individuals who provide them. That is what the term “venture capital” is referring to.
For instance, Investopedia describes venture capital as “money, technical, or managerial expertise provided by investors to startup firms with long-term growth potential.” In other words, venture funding consists of a combination of three things:
- Financial funding
- Technical support
- Managerial expertise
Together, these are lumped into the concept of “venture capital funds.” Young companies seek this form of financing to establish themselves and become profitable.
If you’re looking for VC money, rest assured that you’re not the only company doing so. Every VC has to choose from a myriad of young brands, all with varying degrees of potential. Growth marketing can help you position your company to stand out from this crowd of suitors.
Positioning Yourself to Attract VCs Through Growth Marketing
You want a VC firm to see your startup as a healthy, growing business. In order to guide an investment decision, it's crucial to have a solid business model and business plan. However, funding will also depend on the stage of growth you’re experiencing and what kind of funding you’re requesting.
The Stages of VC Funding
VC financing is provided via several “rounds” over the course of a startup’s growth cycle. Seed round funding gets things started. Early stage funding (often referred to as series A funding, series B funding, and series C funding) involves large cash infusions and additional support to build on early growth. Late stage funding (series D, E, and F rounds) feeds a thriving young business, helping it dominate its market.
Consider what stage you’re in and if you come across in that way to investors. Small businesses looking for series D funding from a potential investor, for example, should be well-established and seeking to grow your product line and expand into new markets.
Using Growth Marketing to Impress VCs
In most cases, you want a VC to see your company as one that is already active and building a reputation. Growth marketing is an ideal investment to achieve this in a synergistic fashion.
Growth marketing is cost-effective, a data-driven approach to marketing that focuses on the customer to facilitate sustainable long-term growth. It integrates three key growth marketing pillars.
Digital PR Builds Credibility
Digital PR fosters industry credibility by accumulating public mentions from third-party entities across yours and related industries. This helps build a sense of trust in VCs as they see other companies and individuals willing to reference and, at times, even endorse your brand.
Content Strategy Establishes Authority
Content strategy builds your authority by publishing high-quality online resources designed to help customers at various stages along the customer journey. This signals to fund managers that you know what you’re talking about and have the wisdom, knowledge, and experience to go the distance.
SEO Strategy Boosts Visibility
Search engine optimization goes hand-in-hand with content strategy. SEO helps increase your chances of receiving a VC investment by boosting visibility. This makes it easier for VCs to see your brand pop up on SERPs (search engine results pages).
Together, these three growth marketing tactics enable a young brand to quickly establish a pattern of upward marketing momentum. This makes them more impressive as VCs conduct research into their brand and consider making an investment.
Attracting VC Funding for Your Startup
Venture capital firms are a unique form of private equity for a business. They provide various forms of seed funding and other resources that can streamline a startup’s path to profitability.
From internal factors like a competent C-suite and clean balance sheet to external considerations like growth marketing, make sure you set the stage before looking into VC funding. That way, when you begin to make inquiries, you’ll stand out as a startup that knows its business and has plenty of potential for future profit.
Your business is doing great despite the challenges of worldwide turmoil and economic uncertainty. Customers appreciate the quality and pricing of your products and services. They recognize that your employees know their stuff and can help them solve real-world problems. So why do you need to spend time and money developing an effective website strategy?
Fair enough. Why would any thriving business need to divert attention and resources to building and maintaining an authoritative digital footprint?
At least part of the answer is that your prospective customers now overwhelmingly use their smartphones to locate what they’re seeking. If a quick search using keywords relevant to your niche doesn’t land your company on Page 1 of search engine results pages (SERPs), you’re effectively invisible to that shopper. That prospective customer might be parked one block away and yet have no idea you exist.
Elements of a Strong Website Content Strategy
OK, so no one wants to be invisible on the internet. On the front end, business owners and managers can see that they need to dedicate some hours, which means finances. Getting the most bang for the buck will require focusing on your unique selling proposition, the people most likely to need what you have to offer, and your specific service area.
Once you’ve answered the Five W’s accurately, you’re ready to get started. Keep the following five principles in mind as you curate your website’s content.
1. Strong content showcases your expertise in relevant topics.
Are you and your staff highly skilled in a specific area? Do customers come to you asking questions about the niche your company occupies? In short, why do most people darken the door of your storefront?
If there is any difference between what you are known for and what you would like to be known for, that dissonance reveals the need for a website content strategy.
As customers pepper you and the staff with questions and complaints, jot down reminders. Recording these encounters will pay dividends when you develop your website content strategy. Rather than answering a single question on the fly, publish a thorough response. Ensure your published articles are accurate, timely, and address real-world concerns. As you tweak your various forms of media, keep an eye on optimizing your content for search engines.
2. Useful content gently moves readers through your sales funnel.
We all recognize a gap between answering a customer’s question and making a sale.
However, overcoming misgivings is a crucial step. In addition to moving a prospect closer to a sale, confidently addressing issues relative to your niche establishes your company as authoritative. The trick now is to transfer that expertise and confidence into the digital realm and trust that increased sales will follow.
To build authority with readers, you must hit questions and answers at every stage. That means accurate, updated onsite content at the funnel's top, middle, and bottom. This website content strategy will help build that authority with your potential customers and show them that you clearly understand their pain points…and can help solve them.
3. Your website should signal to search engines that you know your stuff.
What distinguishes popular websites from those that are merely so-so? If we were to boil the answer down to a single word, the term we'd pick would be authenticity.
As you develop your website content strategy, don’t succumb to the temptation to exaggerate or obfuscate who you are and what you have to offer. We live in an era of rapid communication where anyone armed with a smartphone can express disappointment to a worldwide audience even before driving away from your storefront.
However, when you publish (and maintain ) valuable online content, your existing customers learn to use you as a reference point in your specific niche. Perhaps more importantly for companies pursuing market growth, other entities begin sharing links to your website pages, media files on Instagram, videos on YouTube, and any other online resources your company owns and maintains.
Before long, your "digital footprint snowball" takes on more "SEO snow" as it rolls downhill.
As you consistently respond to real-world customer needs, other individuals and non-competing businesses begin linking to your resources. They're willing to do so as, time and again, your published content has proven to be both professional in appearance and thoroughly reliable.
Providing links to your expertise makes them look good, too. Acquiring backlinks in this way is when search engines really begin to notice. Assuming you keep a close eye on your website analytics and other empirical data, you can continually adjust your website content strategy to target your most relevant keywords.
4. Popular content boosts your ranking on SERPs.
Strong website content backed up by real-world results is the not-so-secret sauce that distinguishes one company from another. When ranking for important keywords, ensure your website content strategy targets words and phrases that reflect reality.
Your site starts gaining search engine clout as a recognized authority. You begin to rank for keywords that are crucial to your industry. As that domain authority grows, your SEO ranking improves. Search engine bots and spiders dutifully gather more and more evidence that you are a credible resource.
After perhaps a few months, that potential customer parked one black away enters any of those critical keywords into a smartphone search box, and suddenly they see your business as relevant to what they need. (They also notice that your storefront is just around the corner, alongside your phone number and hours of operation.)
5. Strong content is responsive to search intent.
The whole point of building and maintaining reliable onsite content is to help your audience better articulate their pain points and, having done that, solve those issues.
That said, your onsite content needs to match the search intent of target keywords. When your content matches up with what users seek, you'll build your site's authority with prospective customers and search engines.
For example, publishing a 2,000-word article describing your product and its virtues might not be the best call if your relevant keywords support a primarily commercial intent.
However, you might publish a simple product page one day and a helpful 2,000-word blog the next. That blog post could take a more objective stance. It might highlight what shoppers should look for when purchasing products like yours and, almost as an aside, include a link to the product page you published the day before.
If you treat your potential customers well, they are likely to return the favor.
You needn't mention or link to any of your competitors, but you could serve them well by informing them of what works in your niche…and what doesn't. If your post takes a low- or no-pressure point of view, people are likely to recall that you helped them even if they didn't end up buying from you.
Building non-paying-customer loyalty over time will likely pay off in the long run. And it contributes positively to your domain authority and SEO along the way.
As you consider boosting your ranking with search engines, make sure you know who you are and (perhaps more importantly) who you are not. A small engine repair shop will need to zero in on different long tail keywords than the massive muffler chain with three locations in the same service area.
Pick the wrong keywords, and your search ranking likely won’t budge.
If your company has yet to make a significant dent in developing an effective website content strategy, don’t despair. The past few years have left more than a few industries reeling. For example, not many businesses prepared themselves for a sudden and massive need for touchless service. However, regardless of the size of your company, everyone can start small and build.
If you’re anxious to boost your online profile but not really sure which direction to go, we’re here to help. Let the experts at Relevance point you in the right direction for your content strategy by scheduling a free consultation.
As more and more people join the ranks of those currently using their smartphones to complete secure business transactions, it's become increasingly vital to get with the content marketing trend. So yes, it's critical that you create high-quality, reliable content specific to your niche. However, if you don't know how to optimize content for SEO, all the great content in the world is unlikely to boost your online visibility.
There is both an art and a science to creating helpful content while balancing that against remembering how to optimize content for SEO even as it is being produced. Today there are plenty of diagnostic tools to help you grasp the basics, such as Yoast SEO. But there's much more to it than just the effective use of tools.
For example, you might use Google Docs and Grammarly to put a spit shine on your writing, but you're going to need more than that. Being talented in one area of SEO is great, but to get a boost in search engine results pages (SERPs), you will need to be highly skilled in other areas. Someone highly adept in only one area is roughly analogous to someone who only knows how to change a flat tire thinking they are a certified car mechanic.
Great Content Fuels SEO-Powered Sales
Well-planned and executed content contributes powerfully to your overall SEO strategy. Learning how to optimize content for SEO makes your website content more readable and enjoyable to consume overall. It also helps readers and search engines understand what you've posted.
There are many simple ways to optimize content for SEO. Below are eight industry practices you can use to help you get started. Think of them as checkboxes that must be ticked, such as including onsite and offsite links, using the right keywords to help you optimize your onsite content, and ensuring you are addressing issues about which people care.
Before you start learning how to how to optimize content for SEO, it will help immensely to put together what experts refer to as a client creative brief. A client creative brief is nothing more than a rough outline of what you hope to achieve. Think of it as a blueprint containing project details, both short-term and long-term objectives, and what you need to get from here to there.
If you are not planning to outsource your SEO project to an agency, you should nonetheless put your client creative brief together. Feel free to modify your brief as your project progresses, but don’t dive in without a roadmap. Getting lost and muddled in strengthening your domain authority and showing up prominently in search engines is too easy.
How to Optimize Content for SEO
1. Use heading tags.
If you are coding your written content by hand, you already know that H1, H2, H3, and H4 tags provide readers with a taxonomy of information. H1 is the coding equivalent that signals Header 1, H2 signals Header 2, and so on. These tags help provide a helpful taxonomy of data for the human eye and for the search engine "spiders" that repeatedly crawl your website, digesting your information.
Nowadays, though, no one needs to learn to code HTML to generate these codes.
WordPress, for example, does this automatically, behind the scenes. Writers leverage a user-friendly interface to raise and lower the status of their headings, subheads, bulleted lists, and more. Once the content has been published or updated, search engines use these automatically inserted tags to answer one straightforward question: "What is this piece about?"
If you publish content without providing these distinctions, it quickly becomes monotonous. Human readers and search engines alike see what you've written as one big, long, perhaps sleep-inducing blob of text. Human beings will quickly bounce as they can't scan your content. A huge part of learning how to optimize content for SEO is making effective use of hierarchical elements, especially heading tags.
2. Include internal links.
An internal link is a hyperlink inserted into your text that links to additional content on the same site. This link should be germane to the topic as you’ve rendered it in the text and images. An internal link communicates an expectation in the mind of a human reader, something along the lines of "there’s more to learn about that subject if I want it."
When you interlink the content on your site, it signals to search engines that you are an expert on specific topics. It creates a web of authority that strengthens the value of your domain. Links should tell readers you know a great deal about a particular niche. If you have great information about a certain topic, this fact will become immediately apparent to readers and search engines. Therefore, pick your links and keywords with the utmost care.
3. Add value with external links.
Avoid trying to be an expert in everything. No one can do this. Better by far to recognize where your expertise ends, and the expertise of another begins. When you hit that boundary in your online content, insert external links to high-authority, helpful content on external websites.
Keep in mind that your site's authority is at stake as you choose the external sites to which you plan to link. Let’s face it; you can probably find something on the internet to back up just about anything you write, no matter how ridiculous (or worse, untruthful). Consequently, it’s critical that you use domain authority tools such as Moz to make sure you are only linking out to high-quality, reliable information. Your reputation is on the line here!
One of the best uses of external linking is to help your readers access information to back up your statements with statistics, charts, and data. When you use external linking to educate and inform your readers, you send a signal to search engines that you are a reliable source. This helpfulness, too, will contribute to helping your site rise in popularity and SERPs.
4. Do your keyword research.
Perhaps the most labor-intensive task in constructing an effective content marketing campaign is not (as many might guess) producing the content itself. That’s a crucial piece of the puzzle, obviously. However, before generating the content, you want to be locked in on your target keywords. Making sure you’ve selected the right keywords will pay off handsomely when you begin the content development phase.
Experts recommend choosing longer-tail keywords that bypass the more obvious choices if you don’t quite have the authority you need for those more difficult keywords. If your onsite content is solid and optimized to a longer-tail keyword, you’re more likely to rise in SERPs specific to your service area and area of expertise. You will want to optimize as much of your content around those longer-tail keywords as possible. You will want to steer clear of what’s known as "keyword stuffing" and opt instead for related keywords only as necessary.
5. Work to match the search intent of your intended audience.
Have you ever experienced an internet "Gotcha!" moment? Did you click on a link expecting one type of content…only to land on a site that has nothing to do with your intended purpose? Chances are better than even that this misdirection was intentional, the result of manipulating keywords and SERPs to nefarious ends. No one likes misleading links. In all likelihood, you bounced from the site immediately. You should expect the same treatment if your chosen keyword in any way defeats user expectations.
Treat your internet audience with respect. Ensure the content you create matches the search intent for your selected keyword.
For example, an educational blog might be best for a keyword if the purpose is primarily informational. A well-built product or service page may be best if the user's intent is commercial. When you work to consistently meet (or exceed) the expectations of search intent, your users are far more likely to reward you with repeat visits.
6. Be sure to include an intuitive URL and meta description.
Believe it or not, many users still scan the entire URL displayed in the dialog box of their web browser of choice. Set up your site's hierarchy and posts to provide a logical "trail" for your users. This practice reinforces the web of authority around the topic or theme and (let’s face it) is much easier on the eye. Which of the two URLs makes the most sense to you? Perhaps more significantly, which URL are you more likely to copy and text to a friend or family member?
When you begin building links, remember that brevity is the soul of wit. Keep the slug for every page and post as short as possible yet meaningful to human readers. Four to five words are optimal. This will not always be possible for every site. However, it’s a good rule of thumb to implement it whenever and wherever possible.
Similarly, every piece of content you post should include a META description. These descriptions offer search engine spiders a concise overview of the subject matter of your content. Your online content will begin to show up in its niche when your URL, META, and keyword work in unison.
7. Use titles and descriptive ALT text for images.
Making your content available and accessible to the broadest possible audience makes good business sense…and it’s the right thing to do. In the U.S., for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990. Yet, even today, many websites implement ALT tags and descriptive language as an afterthought. Sadly, many still ignore these online content attributes altogether.
Search engines, however, have brought commerce to bear on this issue. Many sites to this day consistently lack ALT tags for images. Other portions of the site are inaccessible to adaptive computing equipment. Consequently, those sites are likely to get dinged for it. Today, search engines more or less serve to police the ADA by lowering site rankings and domain authority.
When including ALT tags, use your selected keyword where it makes sense. Again, don’t try to "stuff" keywords into your ALT tags and other hidden fields. Search engines long ago figured that one out. As stated above, attempts at deception will get you dinged. Plenty of online testing tools are available if you’re wondering how your site scores for adaptability. "Listening" to your website content through a screen reader can also prove an enlightening experience.
8. Write for the reader.
At this point, you might well be wondering if you should be writing content for Google or your intended audience. Well…can it be both? If you are doing your job well, your ranking on SERPs will go up if you keep an eye on your customers and search engines. However, if you must fall off the fence one way or the other, fall in favor of your readers.
Over time, as more users begin taking in and backlinking to your site, the usefulness of your content will become apparent, even if you don’t tailor absolutely everything to please the almighty algorithms.
As you write, produce photos, and develop your content, keep the reader foremost in your thinking. Imagine yourself in the position of someone trying to learn more, solve a problem, or find information. As your audience validates your usefulness through repeated clicks and more extended amounts of time spent on the site, your commitment to reader service can only contribute to greater domain authority and positioning on SERPs.
"Cabbie, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?" Practice, practice, practice!
That corny old joke has become a cliche and stuck around in the collective unconscious for a reason. It points to an enduring truth. You're unlikely to achieve perfection whenever you take your first shot at anything. Whether playing the violin or optimizing content around a longer-tail keyword, you will need to keep at it until it becomes second nature.
Don’t despair if your initial efforts at optimizing content to your niche are less than stellar. That’s completely normal. You need to keep spinning so many plates that it can initially feel overwhelming. Use the guidelines above, refer back to them often as you develop your content, and keep at it!
Even if you plan to staff up in-house, you may need to engage the services of a professional SEO agency on the front end. If you find that you do need help, consider reaching out to one of our sales associates for a no-cost consultation. At Relevance, we eat and sleep SEO, but then we are quick to admit that we’re a bit odd that way.
Whether we like it or not, search engine optimization is a constantly evolving technical skill. What worked yesterday may fall completely flat next week. Constant research and updates are the meat and potatoes of every SEO agency.
Search engine companies, for their part, continue to update their algorithms to provide a better user experience. Frequently, they will release an algorithm update into the wild without much in the way of advance notice.
To better understand how successful SEO tactics really work, it might help to check out the 2014 film "The Lego Movie." In that cinematic masterpiece, the protagonists Emmet and Wyldstyle elude their murderous pursuers by constructing a high-powered getaway vehicle out of random bits of Lego as they run at full speed down an alleyway. At the last possible second, the engines snap into place, and our heroes launch themselves to safety.
Putting together a successful SEO campaign and keeping it afloat is only slightly less harrowing. Any number of factors can influence the results showing up on search engine results pages (SERPs). Given the ever-shifting terrain of SEO and your need to focus attention elsewhere, hiring an agency can be a somewhat daunting, albeit necessary, task.
Ideally, you will partner with an agency that will grow organic traffic to your website. They'll work to improve your search rankings and help you generate more leads. Should you elect to go this route, there are several questions you can ask that will help you determine if potential agencies really know their stuff and can help you move ahead in your market niche. Listed below are nine to consider.
1. Can you guarantee specific results?
Be wary of anyone who answers "Yes." Why? Because it is almost impossible to promise a specific ranking status. If the company you are considering "guarantees" a certain number of visitors to your website, a percentage of increase in sales, or a specific ranking position, you might be hearing more hype and hustle than anything else.
Most agencies will tell you they're confident of the results they can produce based on past clients. However, anyone who promises a specific ranking or traffic level is not being entirely truthful. (Let's just say it that way.) Instead of being drawn in by extravagant promises, focus on doing business with companies that commit to following search engine protocols established to provide benchmarks for quality of work. Go with verifiable "best practices" rather than pie in the sky.
2. How long will it take to see results?
Committing to effective SEO practices represents just the first step on a journey. Again, if anyone you are considering promises overnight results, they are showing you that they haven't been working in the SEO niche very long.
First, your digital footprint must have a solid foundation and strategy. That foundation often takes the form of reliable, high-quality content on a well-maintained and mobile-optimized website. After that, you'll need that onsite content to support your link acquisition goals. Once you have a stable platform, you can begin securing link acquisitions.
Anyone who promises instant results isn't using sustainable techniques. Simply stated, they aren't being honest about the realistic possibilities or working with SEO.
However, that reality shouldn't prevent an experienced agency from giving you an estimated time frame for results. You should generally expect results from reliable providers within six to twelve months, depending on how demanding your goals are. Any number of factors can rise up to skew your hoped-for results. It all depends on the competition, your site's domain authority (DA), and how difficult it is to rank for your specific keyword.
Some niche businesses may see results within a few months. Others could take significant time to see any return. Keep in mind that many third-party factors lie outside anyone's ability to control. This is all part of the SEO process. Consequently, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
3. Have you ever worked with a similar company before?
One of the best ways to know if any SEO agency can handle your project is if they've already achieved similar results in the same niche as your company. If they have, they'll already know some of the strategies it takes to get results. They should be able to explain clearly how taking you on as a client wouldn't result in a conflict of interest.
However, if they haven't previously worked in your niche, that shouldn't immediately disqualify them, either. Many of the tools and tricks that work for one niche are transferable to another.
What you're trying to learn through this question is whether or not your company is a fit with their agency and vice-versa. One positive sign is the courageous sales rep who is transparent about never having worked in your niche.
4. How has SEO changed within the last few years?
Be careful if an SEO agency you're considering explains that SEO is more or less the same today as it was a few years ago. While it is true that the core fundamentals haven't changed much, many specific tactics have been updated to keep up with changes.
Recall that search engine companies frequently announce significant changes to how they index websites. As the online marketplace shifts attention from one highlighting metric to the next, these algorithm changes can't help but affect site rankings and SERPs.
If you want to walk in better prepared, spend at least a few minutes charting the various updates to the Google search algorithm over time. Take notice if the people you're talking to can't walk you through specific updates and demonstrate how they'll impact your business. You need an SEO agency that can speak both technical and business in understandable terms. If, on the other hand, you feel your head start to spin in technical jargon, that's not a good sign. Say something about it and gauge the response this request receives.
5. What metrics do you think are most important to measure?
Rankings, traffic, and backlink numbers are all essential to monitor constantly. However, leveraging effective SEO tactics means doing more than simply increasing rankings, decreasing bounce rates, or improving traffic levels. People spending more time on your website means very little if that loitering traffic never actually purchases anything. Rankings matter most when they're helping your business generate qualified leads.
What you've defined as your business needs should drive which yardsticks you use for measuring success. It's essential to look at various metrics based on specific goals you might have. For example, some metrics could include the ranking position for a keyword or how much traffic a site is getting for that keyword. Tracking these metrics will help you understand the progress being made and if an agency fully grasps what you mean by success.
Ultimately, you want an agency that can tie its SEO efforts back to your bottom line. You need an agency that can visualize the big picture and articulate that vision to you. An SEO agency's success metrics should be based on your personal business goals. Individualization of statistical reporting will be critical for your review sessions.
6. How do you choose the keywords to target?
Effective keyword research requires considerably more effort than most realize as they begin their initial foray into the world of SEO. The overall relevance of any selected keyword is crucial, of course. However, trying to understand the default headspace — a.k.a. "search intent" — of the person conducting an internet search is equally as important.
What's typically going on in the thinking of someone who might have at least some interest in your products or services? What terms are these people likely to type into search engines? That might sound like an impossible question to answer, but it isn't. Meaningful statistics can be harvested and brought to bear, providing a solid starting point.
Make sure any potential agency you're considering refers to search intent as their basis for crafting your SEO campaign. They should also be taking into consideration keyword difficulty, as well as search volume. Not all keyword targets are created equal, so a good agency knows the balance between what is achievable and worthwhile and what isn't.
Ask them to speak at some length about the specific tools and techniques they use to determine keyword intent. If the entire conversation revolves around the number of searches for a keyword they've targeted for your needs, they're more than likely operating on outdated SEO practices.
7. What's your link-building process?
Some SEO agencies will promise to build thousands of links on your behalf within a short period of time. However, the unpleasant reality is that those links may not be valuable if they originate from a bunch of low-quality, low-DA sites.
Your conversations should focus on building quality links over a large quantity of links. You want to ensure that the links you receive come from sites with some authority in their niche and that the content your links are in is relevant to the site where they are placed. If you're a health company and an agency secures you a link in a home renovation site in content that has no connection, it may not be relevant. While you can't stop anyone from linking to you as they wish, you'll get more positive backlinks when you publish consistently excellent online resources.
Online users are quick to click away when a link doesn't yield anticipated results. Modern link-building practices favor those who provide high-quality content relevant to the site on which it will be published. You probably won't move the needle if you're not getting that.
8. How should SEO be incorporated into our overall marketing strategy?
The most successful SEO initiatives are integrated into an overall marketing plan. SEO goes hand in hand with content marketing, public relations, and social media activities to create effective links. Your potential SEO agency should be open to collaborating with marketing, web development, and sales teams and your existing marketing initiatives.
The alarm bells should start to go off if the SEO agency you're talking to ignores or downplays what's worked well for your company in the past. The number of successful companies that need to "chuck it all and start over from scratch" are infinitesimally few. Instead, an SEO company that knows its stuff will take the base you've established and elevate it to new heights.
Properly understood, successful SEO is a blend of onsite content, link acquisitions, and even some aspects of digital PR. Strategic link acquisitions from external publications are also a vital piece of the SEO puzzle. Typically, well-regarded publications agree to link to your content using a specific keyword. Keep in mind that high-DA sites are only interested in linking to high-quality content as they realize that their linking practices affect their credibility.
External digital PR that mentions your brand helps signal search engines that you are recognized as an authority on a specific subject. Incorporating digital PR and boosting your domain authority will provide another shot in the arm to help you rank well.
9. What do you need from clients to be effective?
Reliable SEO agencies should have a long list of questions and needs. To conduct their work effectively, they'll need detailed information about your audience, industry, and goals. Pay attention to their eagerness to interview you just as much as you want to interview them. You can take that as a bad sign if you sense they're going through the motions.
SEO agencies need flexible and cooperative clients to make SEO-focused site changes. The clients who tend to see the most success are willing to let an agency guide onsite strategy and link acquisition strategies. Clients should be able to keep the high-level goal of ranking for a specific keyword as the focus of the relationship.
In a more traditional commercial transaction, you pay money to acquire a product or service. The extent of your commitment is cutting a check. Working with an SEO agency will require making payments, of course, but it's also better to think of the process as a relationship rather than a transaction. Both you and the agency have a vested interest in making sure you see results from the relationship.
Your goal is to make an informed decision when choosing an SEO agency. Hopefully, the questions above have laid the groundwork for that. It might initially feel intimidating to ask a lot of questions about different SEO options. However, asking the right questions at the outset will only set you up for success.
Agencies that know what they're doing will be open and honest about their processes. With a bit of homework on your part — and a willingness to walk away if you have misgivings — you're more likely to find an agency that delivers what you need by asking them these questions. Factor in some after-action time to evaluate their answers to determine the best fit for your niche. Knowing the techniques and policies an SEO agency employs before you dive in will serve you well as you seek to own the industry you operate in.
We all knew that marketing had changed forever once consumers began using smartphones to price-check products and services. True, in-person shopping still has the considerable advantage of immediacy — customers can take your products home right now — but profit margins had to shrink to overcome the willingness to wait a bit for competitors to ship to the doorstep. Suddenly, it seemed, SEO and content strategy were separating the successful from the dwindling.
This dynamic has affected every industry, whether you provide products or services. Consumers nowadays show an endless appetite for calling out price gouging or poor service on social media. Bad online word of mouth can sink a business seemingly overnight. On the flip side, prospective customers are more willing to believe positive reviews submitted by verified buyers. When someone speaks well of your company, it can help nudge others into action.
In this ever-shifting terrain, it’s no longer enough to be highly skilled in your specific niche. Your expertise must be visible online if you hope to achieve any significant growth. What you say about yourself is a great starting point, but what other people say about your business (both online and offline) matters now more than ever.
Learning to Train Your SERP Dragon
Assuming you’ve been actively marketing your products or services online for more than 15 minutes, you already understand the incredible importance of search engine optimization (SEO).
By now, most of us are well aware that “The Holy Grail” for all forms of eCommerce is to have your content displayed on Page 1 of search engine result pages (SERPs). In a perfect world, a prospective customer or client would enter a keyword directly related to your niche, launch that query into the vast wilderness of cyberspace, and BOOM! Your specific expertise would land on the top of the SERP, prominently displayed for all to see.
If only it were that simple, right? Unfortunately, experts estimate that well over five billion — with a “B” — comprise our worldwide digital population. That number is hard to imagine, let alone compete with! Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to raise your odds of engaging with your target audience.
- Optimize all of your online content to the search intent of relevant keywords.
- If the goal of a keyword is to sell products, you must have a landing page for every product to perform well in SERPs.
- If the keyword intent is primarily to inform and educate, you must provide long-form content that offers lasting value.
Are you keeping tabs on what are other businesses doing?
To guide your content development, spend some time studying the competition. What type of content is currently performing well in your niche? In other words, what shows up today when you search your keywords? Where are the pain points? How can you provide solutions that address a problem that prospective customers are trying to solve? Can you narrow your content's focus to attract your ideal audience?
At this point, longtail keywords become crucial.
For example, suppose you hope to rank for the keyword “computer repair” but you don’t have any helpful content on that specific topic published to your website. In that case, your business is likely to struggle to rank well, if at all. It could end up all but buried on SERPs by the big box stores with massive marketing budgets. If, on the other hand, you effectively optimize all of your content to “computer repair,” your local shop can reasonably expect an uptick in clientele once you begin to rank.
Onsite Topical Authority Is the Meat and Potatoes for SEO and Content Strategy
If you are unfamiliar with the term “topical authority,” it’s pretty much what you would guess. In short, modern search engines crawl the web endlessly, sniffing out authentic expertise.
Suppose, in the example above, your computer repair shop in Biloxi has a website crammed with helpful content, an online reputation as affordable and competent, no shortage of stellar reviews verifying great customer experiences, and backlinks from other trusted providers. In that case, your topical authority should elevate organically.
Simply stated, you will rank higher on SERPs if search engines confirm that you know what you are talking about.
On the other hand, your team might very well comprise the most talented and efficient computer repair techs across the American South. But if you do not have trustworthy, authoritative onsite content — and the subsequent topical authority to go along with it — your business is unlikely to rank well in SERPs.
Of course, you may not have entered the computer repair business to spend your time optimizing and curating online content. However, this is what it will take if you want to grab the attention of someone using a smartphone to search for help.
The good news is that whether you realize it or not, you generate valuable content every day. Whenever you assist a client with a real-world issue, that’s valuable content. Developing strong, rankable online content is primarily a matter of communicating solutions in digital format. Build a website crammed full of helpful solutions. You are far more likely to attract the attention of Google and other search engines. You will also build customer loyalty as they look to you for the expertise and (you guessed it) increase your topical authority.
Better Optimized Content Grabs More Search Traffic
The best roadmap for pursuing a winning SEO and content strategy is (thankfully) reasonably simple. Solve problems for other people.
True, some of the people you help will never darken the doors of your business, but that’s OK. Keep in mind the thousands upon thousands of people in your local area. If every single one of them showed up at your door, you’d have a seriously tough time accommodating them. If millions (let alone billions) of people emailed you with a relevant question, your servers would spontaneously combust. You are not trying to interact with everyone but rather target those most likely to need what it is you have to offer.
What’s the Search Intent Behind Your Target Keywords?
Once you boil down the essence of your business to relevant longtail keywords, it’s time to focus your efforts on search intent. Is your target audience of that target keyword trying to find a specific online resource…or conduct research? Are they actively shopping to make a purchase…or just learn more before they commit? While you might hope to push all four of these online searchers to your product pages, long-term success comes by providing content tailored to each.
Online audiences tend to shy away from pushy content. Can you provide a link to your product or service on an informational tutorial? Absolutely! Just make sure that your tutorial is the primary focus. Your goal should be to establish trust and reliability. You are more likely to gain authority if the content you serve up directly relates to search intent.
Returning to our modest computer repair shop in Biloxi, a smartphone user might read an article stepping them through a confusing software upgrade. Assuming your information was easy to find, easy for anyone to understand, and easy to implement, that person is highly likely to commit some portion of the experience to long-term memory. Months or even years later, when the need arises to replace an outdated machine, they recall the excellent customer experience you provided. Your shop suddenly becomes the first stop on the shopping circuit.
Optimize Content to Relevant Longtail Keywords
Keep in mind that even small bits of additional online traffic can add up to a significant boost to your bottom line. No, it probably won’t happen overnight, but SEO and content strategy is a process that will yield results as you continuously create, post, monitor, evaluate, and tweak.
Your content establishes your authority. Your longtail keywords should act as arrows pointing to the center of your expertise. Marketers often refer to this as the hub and spoke strategy for content development. If you select keywords that garner a lot of online traffic but aren’t directly related to your niche, misled users will leave (quickly) with a negative impression.
When done right and appropriately maintained over time, your value-laden information can start an SEO and content strategy snowball rolling down the hill. You increase your domain authority by optimizing your blogs, videos, and online materials around longer-tail keywords. As third-party voices — customers, industry experts, influencers, etc. — begin touting the value of your product or service, you gain additional authority. Every time your niche SEO snowball rolls over in the hills of cyberspace, it will pick up even more credibility.
Putting Yourself in the Buyer’s Shoes Meets Search Intent Needs
Why would someone go to the internet to poke around? Because they have a specific problem, they need to solve. Typically, in this realm, patience is at a premium. If your target customer happens to land on one of your resources and does not immediately find it helpful, they will bounce. Knowing your audience's search intent is the North Star for creating content designed to solve the immediate problem.
The best way to offer your potential clientele a rewarding online experience is — this may sound overly simplistic, but it’s true — treat others as you would like them to treat you. You can do this by being relentless about crafting an online buyer’s journey that doesn’t leave your target audience with cartoon question marks popping out of their heads. Treat your users' time as valuable (it is) and move them along with purpose and clarity.
How can I buy from you if I've never heard of you?
Your first step is to create awareness of your niche expertise. Awareness content is information designed to educate and inform, not sell. At this point in the buyer’s journey, overly promotional content simply does not work. Your goal is to solve problems, answer commonly-asked questions, and provide solutions. The user has a problem. You’re helping to solve it, regardless of whether it results in a sale or not.
If you can solve problems and make a sale, great! But keep your primary focus on offering helpful, evergreen, bulletproof content. If you can do that, just trust that your niche authority will rise over time…and so will your sales.
We understand that most businesses would prefer to reverse the sequence, but the online world doesn’t tend to work that way. You don’t have any customers “trapped” in your showroom. As a result, they feel zero reluctance to bounce off your site if they sense you are not trying to help.
Domain Authority Stems from Reliability and Trust
The world of SEO and content strategy can be complicated and confusing, but it doesn’t need to be. As you develop your online presence, it might help to remind yourself of a simple truth. People prefer to buy products and services from people who know their industry inside and out.
Hopefully, you also bring a great deal of enthusiasm to your niche. Is it your desire to help people find solutions to real-world problems? If that desire is authentic, that authenticity, combined with expertise, will put you on the path to sustainable growth. If you’re unsure as to your best next move, we can help. Schedule time with one of our marketing experts today.
The customer journey starts from the moment someone hears about your product’s name. Consequently, it’s important to get off the ground running as early as possible to maximize your chances of converting them into a customer of your retail brand.
An overall brand experience needs to be crafted to set you apart from the competition. Bigcommerce.com defines the eCommerce Customer Experience (or in our case journey) as the sum of every touchpoint, engagement, thought, or feeling that occurs or is exchanged between the customer and your brand — as experienced from the customer’s perspective.
Here’s a quick video on this concept from PlaybookUX to get you started.
- The customer journey begins in the awareness stage and ends when a customer actively ends their business with you.
- Setting up a unique customer experience sets you apart from the competition.
- Maintaining this customer journey at all steps can help retain customers and bring more on.
There’s plenty of reasons why a unique customer journey is important to customer conversion and retention.
Building Loyalty with Your Customers
Emplifi says that 49% of customers have abandoned a brand in the last year because of poor customer experience. And why shouldn't they? When you stay engaged with customers, you build trust and loyalty between them and your product.
Neglecting to keep their attention through things like content marketing and the post-purchasing experience can lead them away from your brand in favor of the competition.
Attracting New Prospects to Convert
Every step of your customer journey should be built with attracting new prospects in mind. Accordingly, things like excellent website UI and special offers for new clients attract the eye and put you in a great starting position with someone who’s never used your product(s) before.
Think about it this way: your overall brand is unique to you — by selling your brand at every step of the journey you are doing the most to differentiate your product vs the other guy’s.
Long Term Growth Through Data
Customer data is crucial to the overall growth of your business. Data should drive your KPI’s and long-term goals for lead conversion and customer retention. More importantly, customer data can help you see where your customer journey is succeeding, and where it could use a little attention.
Every stage of the journey is measurable. Things like clickthrough rate and traffic to your landing page can show you how many eyes are on your website, while email list websites like Constant Contact and Mailchimp provide crucial information on the happenings of your regular clients.
Here are some metrics to consider in the long run.
Traffic is about pageviews and users. Services like Google Analytics can give you an accurate read of this data. It also helps you see exactly where your views are coming from.
Views are great, but what happens after the initial click? Is the reader just leafing through your website? Are they sharing it? Are they actually purchasing your product or scheduling your services?
Conversion rate shows how many prospects are becoming customers. As a result, this metric is the real shining gem of your content marketing efforts! Converting prospects should be your number one goal with content marketing.
Seeing how your organic search rankings are performing is crucial to a healthy content marketing strategy. Consequently, keywords drive your content, because the higher you rank with keywords, the higher you are on Google’s search results. Be honest, when was the last time you clicked the seventh link down?
Regardless of stage, knowing how many people are participating in the experience is crucial to the success of your overall customer journey.
Now that you know why, let’s talk about just how eCommerce retail brands are doing their customer journey.
Great Website UI
An aesthetically pleasing landing page is the first taste a prospect gets of your brand. No one wants to see an HTML page of word vomit. Instead, they want to see something nice and pleasantly informative. Here’s a great example of a good looking webpage from us!
Relevance is a great example of an excellent landing page because it has all of the required elements — from the catchy headline to the simple CTA copy and visually appealing screenshots.
The overall design banks on SEO. As a result, there is enough content to keep readers engaged with the site before they complete the next action.
Don’t forget — your website must be optimized for mobile. No one wants to open their phone and have to zoom in on every part of your website! Make sure the experience is great on all platforms.
Content marketing is the sustainable and cost effective tool to get your product or service in front of your top prospects. Creating content on your website and distributing them across your social channels can cut your marketing strategy spending down drastically.
Blog writing is the easiest way to get organic hits on your website by creating quality pieces that those who fall into your customer profile are already searching for. Proper distribution can also captivate your current customers, guiding the post-purchase stage of the customer journey.
This process is especially beneficial for top of the funnel prospects seeking information before they purchase. Creating context about why they need your item and leading them to the conclusion is key.
By keeping up on your social media presence, you are also opening an avenue to get your content in front of your customer’s eyes. Posting your new content across different platforms gives you a variety of outlets to send the same message to different people.
Not to mention, an open comment section is a place for your community to discuss ideas and connect with each other. This organic engagement is important to the viewership of your content and the overall value of your brand.
Using a content calendar can keep your publishing efforts organized and well-planned.
How do we know what the customer wants out of their journey? Simple. We ask!
Keeping in contact with prospects converted into customers and asking about their experience provides excellent insight into the customer journey. It also helps build the communication line that instills trust in your brand.
Surveys can be sent directly to clients via the email addresses they used at checkout or through the email blasts from your content marketing efforts. Either way, providing an incentive like a discount code can encourage them to give the feedback you need.
The customer journey is the entire process your prospect goes through from being aware of your product to the second they stop doing business with you. Making sure every step in your brands customer journey contains elements of your unique brand will help grow trust between you and them.
By keeping a connected and unique customer journey, you can ensure your product and brand stand out from the competition and blow past your marketing goals!
Hiring Relevance as your growth marketing agency can make this process easier on you as your brand and business grows in an ever-changing market. Ready to talk? Fill out an interest form and we can help your business on the path to success.
Small- to medium-sized business (SMB) owners and entrepreneurs are definitely allowed to daydream about taking company success to the next level and beyond. If you aren't doing at least some "Magic Wand Thinking" occasionally, you might want to check yourself for a pulse. If you are serious, a marketing growth plan can help you get there.
There are few things more intrinsic to the mind and heartbeat of an entrepreneur or SMB owner than to speculate on how to boost productivity, enhance visibility, and beef up the bottom line. Motivations will vary, of course, but it's common knowledge that daydreams must be translated into plans at some point.
"Failing to plan is planning to fail" has become a well-known guardrail for running a successful business, and for good reason. To ensure that your marketplace success is more enduring than a flash in the pan, you must set aside time regularly to develop, implement, and fine-tune a marketing growth plan.
Perseverance in the Face of Ongoing Change
Some SMB owners and entrepreneurs are tempted to give up on maintaining a marketing growth plan. The pace and frequency of marketplace changes have become dizzying. Planning and adjusting a marketing growth plan can seem secondary to the everyday demands of keeping all the pie plates spinning simultaneously.
There's no getting around it. All seven of the elements listed below will require the investment of your time and attention. How you find time in any given week to review, update, and inform others will vary depending on the main thrust of your enterprise.
1. Overall Vision and Supporting Objectives
It’s easy for visionaries to keep their “35,000-foot view” of any business undertaking tucked away securely in the recesses of their minds. While acknowledging that entrepreneurs must keep at least some of their cards close to the chest, the primary problem with too much secrecy tends to crop up when employees and other strategic partners come alongside to help implement the vision. If you’re an inventive, free-thinking leader, you can unintentionally believe that other people know everything you do. In all likelihood, they don’t.
Don’t expect your people to become mind-readers. Break out whatever works best for you to get those objectives and plans out of your head. For some, this will mean recording voice messages on a smartphone. Others think best while using a computer and keyboard. Still others prefer to use pencil and paper.
Use whatever helps you crank out your ideas as quickly as possible. As you brainstorm, hold off on judging what pours forth. You can do that later. During this step, your job is simply to see how well you can translate your big ideas into words that others can understand.
Objectives and vision statements don’t need to occupy multiple three-ring binders. In fact, the very best vision statements often take the form of a single sentence. If you can think of your vision statement as a platform, the objectives you come up with to achieve your vision are the undergirding support structure.
2. Niche-Specific Research
Don’t skimp here. This part of the process will likely consume most of the time you invest in your marketing growth plan. In addition to an initial research period, you will want to set aside a chunk of time every so often — weekly, biweekly, monthly, whatever — to review, update, and add to what you’ve learned.
Research doesn’t need to be a drag, either. Yes, some hours might be spent feeling chained to a book or web browser, but there are other ways to discover what the “latest and greatest” in your industry looks like. Who knows? You might even find that you enjoy the process of adding to your personal knowledge base.
Extroverts typically prefer to get out of their routine, meet others, attend conferences and events, and volunteer their time serving the community. (You might be surprised to find out how much you can learn about the local business landscape just by serving alongside others.) All of these represent opportunities to gain knowledge, improve visibility, and perhaps even garner candid feedback about your company that you would be unlikely to attain any other way.
Introverted types can spend long hours with a laptop, trade journals, magazines, books, and other “solo” data sources. What’s more, they tend to thrive in that setting. Another suitable self-driven means of research might be watching or listening to industry-specific podcasts, training sessions, DIY videos, etc. Truly effective ongoing research will draw on both learning styles, but the key will be to find what works best for you and augment it with other forms of learning. The main takeaway here is that to keep up, you need to keep at it.
3. Data-Driven "Best Guesses"
By now, most SMB owners and entrepreneurs have already had it drilled into their heads. The era of following hunches is more than likely in the rearview mirror.
True, there will always be a place for novel insights and unique approaches to problems the rest of us assumed had already been solved. However, the catchphrase for the 21st-century marketplace is data-driven.
Data sifting software solutions are evolving at a rapid pace. Many SMB owners might assume that advanced data analytics are the exclusive province of Big Tech and out of reach for the average entrepreneur. While that may once have been the case, this is no longer true. Witness the rise of an ever-expanding array of business solutions offered under the umbrella of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).
Today, even the smallest businesses capture and generate an enormous amount of digital data daily. Since the onset of the digital revolution, one primary problem has been sifting and sorting through terabytes of information, looking for the tiniest fractions of data that SMB owners can use to hone their products and services to meet genuine needs.
Business owners owe themselves a renewed look at the SaaS services available for every budget. Collecting and analyzing data is in many ways easier today than ever. Armed with previously-hidden insights, you can construct a marketing growth plan that leverages hard facts. And if you want to throw in one of your (data-informed) hunches from time to time, go ahead.
4. Plans A, B, C, and D
How many successful entrepreneurs or SMB owners do you know are still operating profitably with the plan they came up with decades ago? Chances are good that number is zero.
However, this does not mean that it’s not on you to come up with your single best shot at a workable Plan A. What is the default strategy you will use to prosper and grow? Nail it down.
Many business people like to use (read: overuse) buzzwords such as agility and pivot. OK, feel free to use those terms if you must. Still, the underlying idea is to look carefully at your completed Plan A schematic and purposefully, intentionally look for every weak spot. At every potential breaking point, sketch out a backup plan for adjusting your marketing growth plan.
More than a few businesses still go into total gridlock if the internet goes down. If all it takes to wreck your productivity is for a load balancer to blow at the local power company, start over. Come up with an alternative that includes regular service interruptions and even makes allowances for disaster recovery.
You don’t want to send everyone home and shut down your company’s website if, for example, a pandemic forces you to disperse to remote locations. (Perhaps a far more common disaster would be your competitor getting to market six months earlier than you had projected.) Whatever the calamity, don’t allow your overall guiding vision to be obscured by the unpredictable.
5. Inventory of Strengths, Opportunities, Limitations, and Needs
No one knows your business better than you, right? Who better to compile the authoritative list of your strengths, known opportunities, limitations, and needs? Well, not so fast. An effective marketing growth plan often needs to bring more than just your insights to bear.
There really is no substitute for clear-eyed, impartial assessment than someone with no vested interest in whether your company succeeds or fails. While hiring an outside contractor or agency may not be in your operating budget year after year, you should at least consider bringing in a consultant with a proven track record. Once the confidentiality issue is settled to your satisfaction, give your expert permission to ask all sorts of annoying questions, some of which you may never have considered. Here’s a partial list of what you’ll want them to cover.
Your company might dominate the widget-building industry, but that’s an obvious strength. Non-obvious strengths might include geographic location, unique skill sets of employees, online reputation, employee perks, etc.
Are there markets for your product or service that you may not have previously considered? Have you recently acquired staff with highly specialized skills? Are other municipalities offering incentives that would significantly reduce your operating costs? All of these (and more) should show up here.
Less fun, but listing these out is necessary. If your planned expansion stalled out for lack of capital, that will need to be documented. Are you locked into an unfavorable multi-year contract? Most of us are only too painfully aware of our limitations. However, an objective perspective can help flesh this out, too.
Needs are not the same thing as limitations. This section of your marketing growth plan can be considered more of a “shopping list” than anything else. They are not obstacles in the same way as a limitation but rather assets you don’t have yet. Which line items will you need to add to your budget this quarter? This year? Five years from now?
6. Risk Assessment: Upsides and Downsides
Most of us prefer to live on the sunny side of the street, but you did not become a successful SMB owner by ignoring the potential pitfalls. Your marketing growth plan must consider both sides of the success ledger. Without allowing yourself to get carried off by unrealistic expectations or becoming overly moribund, strive to find the middle way.
Of course, any enterprise's primary threat these days is the growing risk of hacking, ransomware, and data theft. Digital security is paramount for any business to succeed long-term. Your plan must make allowances for added expenditures to protect both your business and the privacy of those with whom you do business.
Of course, risk management is hardly limited to the digital realm. In early 2019, no one was predicting that a worldwide pandemic would close stores, overwhelm the healthcare field, and send the value of video conferencing software stock over the moon. When conducting your risk assessment, you might find it helpful to open up a casual conversation with your insurance agent and the law firm that represents your firm. One or both of these professionals will likely offer insights you might have missed otherwise.
7. Ongoing Assessment and Revision
In the halls of academia, it’s common knowledge that every Ph.D. student who successfully publishes a thesis is “the world’s leading expert” on that specific topic. However, this claim to fame lasts for approximately one or two days. As soon as someone else publishes another thesis on the subject, that person’s previous work is obviously still relevant but not current.
Keep this concept of obsolescence in mind as you plan and launch your marketing growth plan. You will protect yourself against frustration by beginning the process if you understand at the outset that you will need to update and improve your marketing growth plan.
Preparation and Flexibility Are Everything
The actual launch of a space shuttle takes less than 10 minutes. However, no one in their right mind wheels a hunk of metal onto the pad and straps a few engines to it. Arriving at lift-off presupposes thousands and thousands of hours of intense labor.
Likewise, your marketing growth plan will require a diligent effort, but make sure to have some fun along the way. If you can assume that not everything will go to plan, that’s more than half the battle. Are you prepared to solicit advice and feedback earnestly? If so, you strengthen your marketing strategy by adding the wisdom of others to your company’s portfolio. Dream big, and allow others to do the same on your behalf.
Developing a growth marketing plan is a critical element of any digital strategy. However, all too often, marketers make common mistakes about the data and insights they have available and the planning and execution of a plan.
Here's a closer look at things to avoid when developing your growth marketing plan.
What Is Growth Marketing?
Growth marketing is a long-term, strategic approach to marketing that relies heavily on data. The approach helps brands achieve consistent, sustainable, and measurable growth.
An effective growth marketing plan uses an end-to-end approach that looks at every stage of the marketing funnel to attract and entice customers. However, too many traditional marketing approaches focus exclusively on the wide end of the funnel.
The successful growth marketing plan is different. It features a balanced approach that approaches every stage — awareness, acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, and referral — equally.
Additionally, with a balanced focus on each stage of the customer journey, your marketing plan will deliver deep insights and data. As a result, this information can help determine how successful a campaign was. Consequently, it can also help inform future campaigns.
Mistake 1: Marketing Without a Plan
You need a well-defined plan in order to start developing a marketing strategy. Additionally, your marketing plan needs to clearly identify your customer personas and each phase of the funnel.
Developing these strategies requires collaboration and perspective from multiple team members. It requires setting priorities, goals, measures, and outcomes.
In addition, it also requires being willing to experiment and testing out ideas, concepts, and new messaging. However, to test out ideas, you still need a plan to measure the outcomes against.
Mistake 2: Failing to Remain Consistent with the Brand
No matter what marketing strategy you deploy, you need to remain consistent with your organizational brand. Brand matters deeply. Consequently, you do not want a marketing strategy in place that does not align with the brand.
In a competitive market, disruption and damage to your brand can have disastrous consequences. Therefore, remain true to the brand and brand guidelines within a growth marketing plan. In addition, if the results of that work dictate taking a closer look at your brand, then do that work separately.
Mistake 3: Failing to Develop a Content Strategy
Content is king. It drives search engine optimization. Content leads customers to your website. Consequently, it reinforces other messages.
Developing a content strategy is a core component of growth marketing. Your content can take many forms — blog posts, videos, e-books, white papers, and websites. This content has several benefits.
First, it answers questions that customers and prospects are asking. A smart content strategy plan knows the concerns, questions, and needs of its customers and provides answers.
Second, a good content marketing strategy positions your brand as a leader, with the knowledge, insights, and expertise within your industry.
Finally, content marketing is versatile. As a result, it can be used again and again to use in multiple formats.
Mistake 4: Ignoring Social Media
Marketing strategies need to be comprehensive. Additionally, they should use as many arrows in your quiver as possible. Social media is a critical component of an effective strategy.
You’ll need to do some research to determine which platforms are best for your brand. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, and YouTube are among the most popular.
One of the most powerful benefits of having a content strategy plan is the ability to use digital PR to distribute the content in the right places.
Mistake 5: Using 'Black Hat' Strategies
Black hat hacking uses various strategies to trick search engines — and users — to monetize activity. In marketing, that might mean link building to boost SEO results or creating link farms that drive traffic.
These approaches are not worth the time and can lead to unforeseen problems. As a result, you could end up being blacklisted by search engines.
To avoid the perils of SEO, be sure to avoid adding irrelevant keywords to your content just to boost website hits. Irrelevant content can also turn off audiences and lead to increased bounce rates.
Don’t “keyword stuff” by adding too many keyword links to your website in the hopes of boosting your Google search ranking. Google algorithms can detect this misleading practice.
On the flip side, keyword research is essential. Identifying the most relevant keywords and keyword phrases can better inform your messaging, content strategy, and growth marketing.
Mistake 6: Forgetting It’s About the Product
If you want to be successful as you experiment and implement a marketing strategy, be careful to remember one thing. It’s about the quality of your product or service.
In the end, it has to be about providing high-value, highly needed products, and services. Consequently, finding a way for these marketing initiatives to inform new iterations of your products and services is critical.
How? Consider that conversion rates and bounce rates can give you good data about what’s valuable. Understanding what customers are looking for and where they spend time on your website are valuable insights. As a result, this information can help you refine product lines and marketing focus for increased profits.
Mistake 7: Not Knowing Your Competitors
Growth marketing can seem like an insular, internal process. However, it needs to be well informed by what’s happening with your competition.
Consequently, reviewing and analyzing what others in your space are doing can inform how you develop messaging and distinguish your brand.
Mistake 8: Ignoring Mobile
Most people who search for something, browse a website or engage online are using a mobile device.
Mobile-first is no longer an anomaly. It’s a must. As you’re optimizing your messaging and marketing, you have to think about the mobile experience.
Customers are most likely to be using a smartphone or tablet when they are engaging with your brand.
Mistake 9: Setting Unreasonable Goals
Your strategy needs to include goals that are measurable, realistic, attainable, and transparent. As a result, set your goals based on past performance and data-informed projections.
Mistake 10: Not Reviewing the Plan
Your marketing plan should be an organic, ever-evolving tool. Reviewing your plan regularly will help you determine if you are reaching your goals.
Course corrections are perfectly acceptable and will allow you to build a growth marketing strategy that aligns with where you are.
Growth marketing is an excellent way to scale a business by focusing on customers at every phase of their journey with your brand. Learning how to build an effective growth marketing strategy gives you the tools to market effectively for long-term gain.
You can get started speaking to a growth marketing agency specialist today. Book a call whenever you're ready to dive in.
In the wake of the past few years, it's a safe bet that your small- to medium-size business (SMB) is struggling on one or more fronts. The statistics for SMBs that shuttered their operations permanently in the first few years of this decade are sobering, to say the least. The Covid-19 pandemic is estimated to have permanently closed approximately 200,000 more businesses than had been expected. Across the past few years, roughly 600,000 companies went out of business annually.
Assuming your SMB managed to scratch its way through the office worker diaspora of 2020 and a subsequent near-total loss in foot traffic, it's likely you are looking to rebuild your business model to survive an unpredictable future. Of course, one obvious answer is to move an increasing percentage of your revenue stream into online sales. So your first instinct might be to overhaul your website and call it good.
However, launching and maintaining an SEO-friendly website — as daunting as that can be — is really only the first step.
Online marketing is hotly competitive, as anyone will tell you. Taking a "Field of Dreams" approach isn't nearly enough. You can build it, yes, but there are zero guarantees that anyone will come. Effective PR certainly includes maintaining an SEO-friendly website, but that’s just one piece in an increasingly elaborate puzzle. There's a lot more to PR than just getting a noticeable bump in your website analytics.
Finding a PR Agency That Specializes in Small Business
Competing for eyeballs online, in print, and in the local community can be intimidating for SMB owners new to search engine optimization (SEO) and other tools associated with PR. It might feel a bit like you're trying to launch a small personal aircraft using the same runway as an Airbus A380.
You can relax...that sensation of feeling ill-equipped to compete with larger companies that have deeper pockets is completely normal.
Start with the one thing your SMB brings to the table that global retailers and big-box stores can't. Namely, your local presence and the great reputation for customer service you've built up over the years. A well-rounded small business PR agency should be able to quickly discern what makes your SMB special. They will then optimize the entirety of your PR approach as a solid first step toward leveraging those advantages.
Here's what to look for when you sense you might be getting in over your comfort level.
Punchlist for a Small Business PR Agency
1. Find someone who knows the difference between advertising and PR.
If the agency you interview leaps immediately to putting together a beefed-up budget for advertising, keep looking. Far too many “experts” still, to this day, confuse improved public relations with “strategic media buys.” Yes, that’s definitely another part of the equation, but it’s not the whole enchilada, either.
Instead, a small business PR agency will know, without being told, that your ad budget is probably already stretched to its breaking point. They will want to know what, if any, ROI you received for those expenditures. They’ll be very interested in the specific data points your advertising outlets provided at the end of your campaigns. (You did ask for data-driven accountability from your media outlets, right?)
2. Look for an enthusiastic willingness to work with what you have.
Similarly, the small business PR agency won’t seek to enter your workplace and start flipping over any tables. Be wary of anyone who brings a cookie-cutter approach they’ve developed and seeks to cram what you do into their new, exciting, proprietary mold. Instead, a truly helpful PR agency will look to elevate your strengths and promote widespread awareness of what you are already doing right.
Yes, you might incur some expenditures as your company expands its outreach efforts. Examples might include new signage, the services of a graphic artist, or subscriptions to automation software packages. You might offload some routine tasks associated with chatbots, answering the phone, social media posts, and so forth. These might all be well and good, but any and all expenditures must undergird the promotion of what makes your company special.
3. You want a PR company that underpromises and over-delivers.
Be wary of over-promisers. There’s a delicate balance to be struck between lowering your expectations too far and guaranteeing you’ll knock Amazon out of first place within two years.
For example, small business PR agencies that know their stuff are well aware that the leading search algorithms change frequently. What works well online today might — or might not — work quite as well next week. And besides…your online performance isn’t the only metric a competent PR expert cares about.
Depending on the niche your company occupies, online performance might not even be the most important metric! Of course, you will want to make sure that you can put numbers to performance both before and after implementing recommended changes, but these might include rate of turnover, on-site foot traffic, events hosted, suppliers added or subtracted, and so forth.
4. Ask your PR prospects to share their understanding of the value of relationships.
Your small business is situated within a community. This is true even if you are working out of your basement with no local office space or retail square footage to speak of.
What investments, if any, are you making in its wellbeing? Does your small business enjoy a favorable reputation with other local business leaders, municipalities, and city officials? Sure, your sales and payroll are contributing to the state, federal, and local tax base, but would anyone care if you suddenly uprooted everything and moved to another community?
One of the most recognizable features of a small business PR agency who knows their stuff is asking for your list of local media outlets, yes, but also opening your eyes to other relationship opportunities you may have missed. The PR agency you want to work with will ask about things such as the number of speaking engagements your team has accepted, who you are connected with via the local Chamber of Commerce, whether your suppliers truly enjoy working with you, and so on.
5. Remain open to out-of-the-box thinking and solutions.
Anyone can open up a web browser and come up with a few new ideas about public relations for the small- to medium-sized business owner. Such an approach might indeed prove fruitful — there’s nothing at all wrong with you conducting some regular research.
However, for PR pros this sort of approach is lazy and lacks imagination. Additionally, it does nothing for providing recommendations that are specifically and intentionally fashioned for your small business.
PR agencies who know what they are doing, on the other hand, take a more methodical approach. They will be slow to formulate their recommendations tailored to your actual needs. They will want to spend more time on the front end asking a lot of questions.
Yes, it’s 100% fair for an SMB owner to ask for a best-guess delivery timeline in the context of an initial meeting. After all, if a consultant spouts off several ideas you can find using Google, why are you thinking of hiring them?
6. A focus on long-term reputation management.
Hustlers tend to show up as “the new sheriff in town” and make extravagant promises. PR professionals tend to show up and provide information about your specific niche, its penetration in the local and online marketplace, and some relevant case studies they use as background information for your initial conversation.
They bring all this and more to the table before you’ve even agreed to cut a check. PR pros aren’t playing for a temporary boost in your sales. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but it’s insufficient.
The PR shop you want to bring into your stable is playing the game for keeps. They want your SMB to thrive this year, yes, but they also want you to still be in business five, 10, and 25 years from now. They know this will only happen when they help you begin moving toward an ever-improving reputation.
Suppose your business does not enjoy a good reputation for customer service, quality products or services at fair prices, and commitment to causes other than the bottom line. In that case, they will fearlessly share that insight. They will also show you what it might look like to reclaim that turf.
Effective PR? Optimize Everything You’re Already Doing Right!
For most SMB owners, public relations is not what motivated the founding of a new company. Any PR efforts should not in any way detract or distract from keeping the main thing the main thing. You want to commit your products and services to continuous improvement, so effective PR is merely that which takes what’s already true about you and makes more people aware of it.
Doubtless, your PR campaign may cause you to reexamine long-standing policies, practices, and operations. That’s OK. It’s part of the deal.
Keep a journal in whatever medium you are most likely to use at a moment’s notice. You might discover issues that need to be addressed immediately, but these are typically rare. Instead, you can expect to find areas for improvement that you can take on at your own pace.
A qualified PR agency will present ideas and options in an agenda-free manner. They will have done their job whether you accept their recommendations or not. You’ll know you’ve found the right PR professionals when you sense that they genuinely delight in your victories as much as you do.
When it comes to marketing online, content is everything. But we all know it's hard to consistently post relevant content. However, it's necessary as strong content will set your company apart from competitors and increase your digital PR outreach.
Most publications are interested in citing educational, helpful information that adds to a conversation. If you’re only focused on putting out promotional content about your brand, it’s highly unlikely a publication will want to source that content.
Instead, try creating content that is educational, informative, and provides true value to relevant conversations. When you have a variety of content on your site that does just that, that’s when you’ll see success with digital pr outreach efforts. That’s when a publication will want to use your blog post full of useful data points in their article.
To get to that point, you need to be thinking through different types of source content that you can put on your site to help aid your digital PR outreach efforts. Here are some types of content to get you started:
1. Data-Focused Research
Original research is difficult for everybody. But with some hard work, it's possible, and if you do it well it can lead to incredible results. Utilizing your own data ensures that your content is unique and stands out among others.
Creating content focused on your own data shows resourcefulness and elevates your authority since your audience can’t find it anywhere else. Think through what information you can gather from your own customers, employees, or audience that would provide value to your industry as a whole. Use that as a starting point to creating data-focused content for your site.
Detailed, relevant content can drive organic traffic to your website, while also informing consumers about your products, brand, and expertise in the field. Blogs are great opportunities for keyword optimization and gaining inbound links, which help with SEO and traffic growth.
More than that though, blogs are the windows to your company’s soul. They explain what you do, who you are, and why you do what you do. When you write strategically and educationally about your company, this encourages publications to utilize that information.
Make sure you sprinkle in helpful stats and quotes when applicable to make your digital PR outreach as strong as possible. Incorporating quotes around industry trends and high-level ideas for the industry within your blogs makes for the great source content. Quoting industry experts will boost the credibility of your content and overall brand. These quotes add weight to your content and what you’ve said seems more valid. That also means you're ready if publications want to use you as a source.
3. Unique Insights
Unique insights are distinctive aspects of your company that make you stand out from your competitors. It can also be a unique way of thinking you have about your industry as a whole. Using this as content inspiration is great because publications can utilize you as examples in their content.
In a world of competition, personalization has become a necessity for brands. Targeted and personalized insights help communicate a clearer message and attract customers. Unique insights can help businesses determine why people buy certain products over others and what’s driving those preferences.
4. Podcasts and Videos
The ease of use and accessibility of these digital mediums over the past several years has made them must-use forms of content. Podcasts and videos have become increasingly popular because they can be consumed somewhat passively.
Videos are more likely to hold the audience’s attention as opposed to something they have to read. Podcasts are also an engaging, personable method to reach users and allow them to easily access the content.
Both of these are great sources of content for publications to use and link to. As with all other content, make sure your videos or podcasts are moving the conversation forward and are answering questions about your industry.
Infographics are great because they’re easily shareable and consumable. Creating interesting visual representations of information and statistics makes it easier to read than a list of numbers and facts.
Because these tend to have a lot of stats and numbers associated with them, they make great pieces of content to source in external articles. Think through stats that are relevant not only to your business but your industry as a whole to capture the attention of online publications. This will help make your digital PR outreach more successful.
6. Social Media Posts
Every business should be utilizing social media in some capacity. However, using social media platforms as content distribution isn’t enough anymore. You should also be creating content that’s specific to your various channels and promotes your business’s personal growth.
Social media can also be a great tool for distributing key stats, facts, and quotes about your business and industry. Many online publications will look to social for helpful snippets, so think about keeping your LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook up to date. Posting to social media could help provide a publication with the information they need to include you in an article.
7. Case Studies
Case studies take time and energy to create, but they also hold a substantial amount of weight with consumers. These studies are essentially success stories that show the power of your business and its services.
By researching and taking an in-depth look at specific subjects, your business can quickly increase its trustworthiness and expertise in the eyes of consumers. The more specific results you can showcase and the deeper you can dive, the more potential people will believe your company has.
These case studies can be another source of information for publications to pull if you’re sure to fill them with helpful information. When doing digital PR outreach, they can be a great tool to prove why your company should be mentioned.
Excelling at Digital PR Outreach
Strong content has and always will be the foundation of a successful marketing strategy.
But it can do more than just help to encourage readers to become customers. It can be the key to excelling in digital PR outreach. With strong source content, publications won’t have a choice but to include you in the articles they are writing about your industry.