I spent this weekend reading and researching what it really means for startups and entrepreneurs to become part of the Internet chatter and get the company/product/brand name to be recognized among selected target segment. All this has to happen in an efficient and cost-effective way.
I am in the process of writing my third book so the chapter for this topic is “Market segmentation, marketing and sales strategy for a Microsoft partner”. I agree, it is an ambitious topic and I had real issues of deciding where to start. I have learned a lot of new things this weekend and here are a few pointers to books that I have come across.
The bottom line is that smaller companies have hardly any money to marketing, so whatever is done, needs to be done without major investments. Where does one start? My conclusion (assuming that you have an idea of your business model) is that it all starts with selecting what your target segment is going to be and then you build your value proposition that resonates with this target group. Without a solid, easy-to-understand value proposition, you will be struggling to attract anybody. And trust me, I have seen and experienced this myself many times. How many times have we seen software startups with engineers in the cockpit building the next rocket without really knowing who is going to buy it. I have seen a few of them and some of these have been documented in books and case studies. The value proposition is then transformed into a solid web-site and will become a part of social media initiatives in channels such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.
The cyberspace is full of different tools that one can use and quite a few books that explain how and what should be done. One of these is the book by Halligan et al. Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs that gives a bunch of practical examples of how organizations can market themselves by practical means such as blogging, email marketing, community building and the book also includes a selection of practical advice how a good web-site should look like.
You might want to check your own web-site by running the free website.grader.com service that is part of the overall Hubspot.com service. They also have another free testing tool for your Twitter account called Twittergrader.com. Hubspot.com is an excellent resource for your to learn about Internet marketing and the story behind the founders Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan is interesting and he has also started another site called http://onstartups.com/ that is dedicated to startup related issues and questions.
For startups, it all starts from having a web-site that provides value to the visitor. Based on some of the research on usability, web-sites should really be built for easy scanning and if you want to read more about how a web-site should work, read the excellent book by Steve Krug Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition.
Your web-site should be actionable, and following types of content is the most typical that you can create and maintain:
- Blog articles if your blog is within your site
- White papers that educate your audience about the domain that you represent
- Short videos about your industry
- Webinars – live online PowerPoint presentations of your industry
Whatever you decide to use of the above elements, you’d better do it in a professional way and not half-heartedly like we can see in many web-sites that we have visited. If you want to be in international business, forget about having your web-site in your native language (if it doesn’t happen to be English) as you will never have the time to maintain many languages. Trust me, I have seen it too many times myself.
Once you have your web-site the way you think it should be, it is time for you to analyze the traffic, convert visitors to leads and leads to customers. The question whether you should put some money in paid search is something many organization are contemplating as some research has shown that 75% of the searchers stay in the organic search results and only 25% are clicking on the paid links. If you want to learn more about SEO, you might want to buy Sean Odom and Sean R. Odom book SEO For 2010: Search Engine Optimization Secrets and when you want to learn everything about web analytics, the bible is definitely Avinash Kaushik book Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity which really explains in great detail what is web analytics is, metrics behind it and how that matters in your business. Great book and worth the money!
Marketing can be very pragmatic and by understanding the social media channels, it provides great opportunities for small companies to become known in its own domain. What is sad is that social media resonates negatively in some people’s mind, but the reality is that that is where the market is going whether you want it or not. It is time for you to face the reality and start by learning and creating your own strategy and how to execute on it. The other thing that people forget is that social media does not provide an easy and quick fix. You have to build your cyberspace presence and give evidence that you really know what you do and provide educational messages to your audience. People do not want to be sold to, so quit sending sales messages to your Twitter feeds and Facebook sites. The smart users have selected their Twitter followers by the topics that they are interested in, as otherwise one will be drowned in information.
For example, if you are interested in domain-specific modeling, you need to follow MetaCase and domain-specific modeling (DSM) forum or you can follow the blogs of both co-founders Juha-Pekka Tolvanen and Steven Kelly. Juha-Pekka and Steven have even written a book about domain-specific modeling that can be found on Amazon.com. I have tracked Metacase for a few years and they are a perfect example of an organization that provides useful information and educates the software world about a relevant topic that has to do with software product line engineering and domain-specific modeling using full code generation.
Whatever you do in your marketing efforts as a startup or entrepreneur, you have to do it in a smart way and avoid spamming of any sales related stuff that people are sick and tired of. I truly believe that the time of traditional cold-calling is over for software companies and it is time for us to learn how to cope with the Internet and anything related to activities around it. Good luck with your studies of Marketing in the new age of social media!
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