Launching a Startup? How to Make It Digital Even If Your Business Isn't
by Above the Glass

No matter how analogue of a business you may be running, a digital presence is crucial to remaining competitive in today’s environment. When prospective customers Google your business (as they most certainly will) and no online results exist, is your brand actually legitimate? When companies, such as Squarespace, make it simple and inexpensive to build a beautiful, custom site why wouldn’t you go digital?

By investing in the branding and design up front you can create a unique web presence that not only promotes your business but separates you from your competitors. Ahead we share some simple steps you can follow to elevate your brand’s digital presence, and perfectly poise your company for optimal digital marketing efforts down the road.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

This typically falls within the responsibilities of your web developers, but you should be aware of how it works and why it’s needed. How developers lay the nuts and bolts of your website, layer in content, and set up the hierarchy of their coding can automatically influence how you show up in search engine results. Best practices are constantly evolving as Google, and other search engines continuously change their algorithms, so it’s important to stay SEO relevant. There are some SEO best practices that don’t require a background in engineering to execute (content writers take note).

Consult with a Google account manager, web developers, or research online which words are most commonly searched for on Google. Whenever possible, use those words in the body of your text instead of their less-searched for synonyms. For example, “robe” instead of “dressing gown” may get infinitely more hits, so try to speak in the language that your customers are searching for. Utilize meta-tagging (or labelling images and sub-sections of your site content when you upload it) to increase premier placement in search result outputs. Hyperlink where possible. The more you link to other sites (especially popular sites) and the more other sites link to you, the more Google pays attention.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

While everything discussed in SEO can be done for free, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) comes at a price. As previously mentioned, the most popular search engine on the internet is Google, so we will focus our SEM there. If your business is big enough, and your digital marketing budget large enough, we highly recommend you enlist the help of a Google account manager. This person can help you identify which search terms will let you most efficiently acquire your target customer, and help you allocate your precious marketing dollars.

For example, if you have a business that sells running shoes, your account manager can help you purchase the most common words that help you show up closer to the top in search results. Alternatively, you can flat out purchase a banner ad at the top of a Google search results page. In this case, you can better guarantee premium placement at the top of a page, given certain words, but your search result may be labeled “Ad,” which can turn off certain customers.

Product Management (A/B Testing)

This person is responsible for translating business goals to the technical and creative sides of a team, and vice versa. In other words, the digital presentation of your business can directly impact your business goals, even if the business is not a digital property. The goal of a website, e-commerce store, or interactive tech tool is to get users to act in a certain way that will enable you to convert them into paying customers or increase the probability that your business will make money. It is very challenging for the different departments of a business to all work towards one collective goal, so it is the product manager’s responsibility to understand the mindset, skillset and incentives of each person, and to facilitate an outcome that best positions your business for success.

How you lay out, stylize, and word your digital product (website, email, tech tool) can make or break its success, so a lot of testing goes into the decision process. Testing multiple versions of the same product in front of different audience members, and measuring which versions are most successful is referred to as A/B testing. Some professional product managers conduct surveys, display multiple visuals to difference audience members, and use different language for different viewers.

Social Media Marketing 

When it comes to accurately and effectively targeting your customer, Facebook and Instagram are marketing gold. They know incredible details on your customers’ behavior because they have the capability to track activity across multiple devices that your Facebook/Instagram account is logged into (phone, computer, tablet), and capture in-depth demographic information in the process. They know when your customer is searching and buying, which device they are doing it on, exactly how to reach your target demographic (i.e. 36-year old female), and how to re-target them when they indicate interest in your product.

That means if a customer at any time is browsing your product on any device, you can pay to have your product re-appear in front of them when they least (or most) expect it.These types of re-targeted ads may seem annoying, but they make for the absolute highest conversion rate from product fans into paying customers, and they actually work. The only problem with Facebook marketing is that Facebook knows exactly how valuable each target demographic is, and will charge you marketing rates that line up with these values. Facebook can almost guarantee you customer acquisition, so it is up to you to determine whether the price of acquisition makes sense for your business, and the margins associated with your product.

Influencer Marketing

While it’s not a new phenomenon, influencer marketing in the digital space is taking over the PR and marketing world. In the fashion world, social media influencers are so powerful that they have completely disrupted the traditional magazine editorial advertising model. Collaborating with high-profile brands to tap into their audience has proven to be the single most effective mode of publicity.

If these influencers have a large digital or social media presence and influence the purchasing behavior of their followers, picking the right ones to promote your product can translate into huge sales numbers. The ideal scenario would involve you gifting product to an influencer and having them authentically promote your brand. Unfortunately, these influencers know the value of their reach so to have them promote your product can cost you thousands of dollars per post (similar to what you would have to shell out for a traditional editorial ad).

Social Media Strategy

The most important part of this step is creating an open and authentic conversation with your customers. This is a democratized platform that allows you to communicate to even your least active consumer, receive feedback, make friends, get discovered, and take advantage of the influence and momentum you will build as a brand. On social media, you can shamelessly plug yourself and send messages to the most powerful businesspeople, celebrities, and potential business partners in an effort to amplify your reach.

But through all your hustling and self-promotion, make sure to use a consistent voice, steady aesthetic, and above all, stay true to yourself. Your authenticity will resonate with your target customers (if you are in fact targeting the right people). And best of all, social media is free! So stay active, consistently update, find the right time of day to reach your customer, and keep hustling.

The “Growth Hacking” Checklist

Not familiar with the term growth hacking? Put simply, it means bringing viral growth to your company fairly quickly. Growth hackers can make an impact through engineering, product management or marketing. This checklist outlines the most important channels to address when building your user-base.

PHOTO: Graphic by Stephanie DeAngelis

Get Digital Savvy – Check Out These Books For Add’l Info!