Start-Up Business – Create an Audience –Build Your Brand
So you’ve taken the leap, escaped the rat race, abandoned security and certainty to make your dream come true. You’ve started your own business. Now come the sleepless nights, the constant worry, and the fear that you’re going to fail. I know how you’re feeling, I’ve been there and so have many, many others before you. The two biggest hurdles that face start-up businesses, is financial restraint and finding customers.
It is at this point in your new business venture that you become like honey to bees for “low level”, “quick win” SEO agencies and the like. Your inbox will become inundated with offers like:
“SEO Services at an Affordable Price”
“Gain Top Google Rankings”
“Increase Your Business with SEO”
DELETE THESE EMAILS IMMEDIATELY! Don’t even open them. You will gain nothing from them. This is 2012 and times have changed. SEO is not the sole solution.
SEO IS DEAD
Wow I bet that got your attention? An Online Marketing Agency claiming SEO is dead?
Ok, ok calm down; don’t scroll down to the comments box yet, hear me out. SEO is not dead, but as your sole Online Marketing solution it is. I recently read two great posts that talk about this same idea. The first was where I got the inspiration for that bold statement. It was a post by Ken Krogue titled “The Death of SEO”. The second was a more recent post by Ian Lurie detailing his presentation at Mozcon 2012, titled “Say What Matters”.
We set up Ionic Media because we were tired of seeing agencies selling themselves as Online Marketing Agencies, then focusing their strategies around SEO and outdated link building tactics, with the sole goal of reaching Page 1 in Google for various keywords.
That is not marketing.
It is the equivalent of opening a shop on a busy high street, and simply expecting customers to flock in to buy your products. With that tactic, your business is going to fail.
SEO is not dead, but to assume that it will propel your business to success is a frightful mistake to make. An Online Marketing Agency shouldn’t just preach SEO. Online Marketing isn’t SEO, it’s about combining and harnessing a wide range of practices and techniques, to create a strategy that builds an audience and exposes your brand. That’s how you get customers.
“Build it and they will come….”
Building your audience and therefor your brand, is the most effective way of gaining customers and regular business, and this cannot be achieved with SEO alone. The past year and a half has been a time of change within the SEO industry. First Google unleashed Panda, which targeted “low quality sites” and “thin content”. Then earlier this year, keeping with the black and white theme (Could Zebra be on the horizon?), Google threw a Penguin into the mix, which targeted the likes of “over optimisation”, “black/grey hat SEO” and “low quality link profiles”. Both these updates have shaped the way in which SEO and Online Marketing are to be approached.
As Dylan so poetically put it:
“Times They Are A-Changin”
It is my firm belief that in the next 2-3 years SEO Agencies, by that I mean agencies that only focus on SEO, are going to go the way of the dinosaurs. Which in my opinion is no great loss; there are far too many low quality SEO Agencies that hide under the pretence that they offer their clients Online Marketing. I love SEO, and admire those that excel at their craft. I think SEO will always have its place, but that place is within a complete online marketing strategy.
This leaves the field open for the REAL Online Marketing Agencies to pave the way forward. Those that are skilled and understand the full package; SEO, CRO, Analytics, PPC, Email Marketing, Content Marketing and Social Media Marketing, all the elements that can be utilised to create a strong and successful Online Marketing Strategy.
It’s time to Build Your Audience and Your Brand
If you have employed the services of an Online Marketing Agency they should be focusing on building your audience and your brand. By building your audience you can reach out and deliver your marketing messages more effectively, promote your products and services, and communicate with your customers on a level that was once impossible for businesses. As your audience grows, so too will your brand awareness; this is the holy grail of business.
So How Do You Build an Audience?
Building an audience is a continuous process, much like the painting of the Forth Rail Bridge (Edinburgh reference, friends across the pond, Learn Something New). Many businesses lack the time, knowledge and patience needed to achieve this. This is why finding a good online marketing agency can be extremely beneficial to start-ups.
What are you offering?
Seems obvious but, what are you offering? What’s your product? What’s your service? What sets you apart? Why your business? Why do people need your product/service? Who would need your product/service? These are the sort of questions to ask yourself, and are questions a good agency should be thinking about too. This is how you identifying your target audience. The more you know about your target audience the more likely you are to establish that all important connection with them.
Become an Authority
This isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight. In order to become an authority you need to gain trust. In order to gain trust you need to deliver what your audience expects of you. This means offering the best product and services, as well as becoming a top resource within your industry or niche. Assuming you’re confident that your products and services are competitively strong, your main focus should be becoming a top resource within your industry.
This requires one thing: Content. You need to create high quality, informative, unique, entertaining, useful, and innovative content. The list goes on but seriously, great content to which your audience will return again and again, to view and share with the world is what’s going to take your business from obscurity, to becoming a top resource and eventually an authority.
Get Social, Really Social
Social Media is a huge part of becoming an authority, and goes hand-in-hand with creating that epic content. Push your content through these channels, and join in the conversations of those that have shared it too. Social media is also a vital part of creating, developing and honing your businesses voice. Harness all relevant social media channels; Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Instagram. Engage with your audience through these channels.
What social media offers businesses is the ability to engage and speak to its customers on a personal level, a humane level, a level that offers communication both ways. This is extremely valuable and should be embraced. Listen and learn from your audience, they will tell you what they want. It is your job to act on this, to continue to meet the expectations that they have come to love about your company.
Take it Offline
You would be surprised how many of our clients ask me, “What should I be doing whilst you guys do the Online Stuff?” This is usually followed by a loud “clunking” sound; my jaw hitting the floor. Anything you do online should be strengthened offline, and vice versa.
Go to networking events, speak at networking events, attend conferences, and speak at conferences. Take with you, your business cards, flyers, product samples and banners. Secure press releases in newspapers, acquire some air time on local radio, speak at Universities; do whatever you can to get your company to the front of people’s minds. Create your presence. Then take all this and talk about it online.
Be the Good Shepherd
Finally you need to be the good shepherd. I touched upon this a couple of paragraphs above, but this is such a vital part to get right. No matter how big or small your audience is, never neglect them. Maintaining your audience should be at the top of your priority list. Don’t get discouraged because your audience is not yet as big as you wished. Instead take pride that people are following you, listening to your voice, and investing in your product/service. These people are the seeds that will grow into the audience that you desire. Continue to meet their expectations of you, continue to feed them rich content and provide a top product/service.
I hope this post has helped not only start-up businesses, but all businesses realise the importance of Online Marketing and building your companies Brand. I would love to hear your thoughts, opinions and experiences on any subject touched upon within this post. Please leave your comments below.