Busting Myths: What startups should expect from digital marketing

I am not going to write any glittery introduction to this post. Instead, I will share two important facts with you that are essential for every startup to know:

  1. A good number of startups fail in the first 18 months of business. The stats are somewhere around 30 to 40 percent. And this, I believe, is a huge number.
  2. One area where almost every new startup struggles is marketing. If a company is in the service industry, it struggles to reach out to a wider audience. If it’s ecommerce, it struggles to sell more and increase revenue. If they are SaaS, their major concern is how to get new customers and increase their LTV.

Regardless of the size of your startup, if you don’t know how to market your business to your target audience, you are bound to fail.

Budget does matter in marketing, but without a well-thought out strategy in place, even businesses with big marketing budgets are poised for failure.

There is a good chance that you will survive and grow even with your tight marketing budget. There are quite a few posts that shed light on how to market a business with low marketing budget. Some of my personal favorites are:

  1. How to promote your startup with tight marketing budget
  2. 22 Marketing Ideas for Small Business with limited budgets
  3. 32 Low-Cost ways to promote your business

But, today I am going to talk about something else.  In this post I will focus on what you need to know when investing to hire digital marketers and what to expect out of your investment.

There are a lot of myths surrounding  digital marketing and sometimes unrealistic expectations about how it can help a business grow. In the rest of this post, I am going to discuss some of them, and in my presentation at Entrepreneur Lounge Pakistan on 14th May 2016, I will discuss the same topic in great detail.

Myth #1: Hire an SEO company and wait for six months to see the results.

This is what most startups do. Unfortunately (in most cases) they rely on the wrong consultant or company. As a result, the entire process puts a big dent on their marketing budget and after six months these startups are usually short of time and money, with absolutely no idea what to do next.

As a startup, you should be very careful about where you invest your money. If you are hiring an SEO company, get recommendations from within your circle. Once you have decided on which company to hire, start by asking them these tough questions on initial calls. Also make sure to check their backgrounds to see if they are a good fit for your business.

A company that does not bring you any result in six months is dangerous for your business, and so is the one that starts showing results in less than a month. Before you hire an SEO company for your startup, consider doing some homework!

Myth #2: All of digital marketing is SEO

SEO is one important part of the digital marketing umbrella but thinking that this is all that there is to digital marketing, is wrong. If you have a business model that is subscription-based, or if you are offering the kind of service or product that requires nurturing, then SEO might not be very helpful as a start alone service.

What you should expect from SEO is a good website structure, flawless architecture, great UI and UX, ranking for targeted key phrases and increase in organic traffic coming from search engines to your website.

If the organic traffic coming to your website is not converting, you need to understand why, and if the answer is that you are not nurturing potential customers then you probably need to invest in inbound services like PPC, email marketing, automation and others.

Understand SEO and expect the right kind of results. You can’t get mangoes out of an apple tree.

Myth #3: Hired the right digital marketing team. I should now win the battle

If you hire the right digital marketing team, chances of winning are definitely higher but saying that this will take you to the finish line, is too much to expect. Digital marketing allows you to take your message to your target persona, bring the audience to the website and nurture them to a point that they convert into leads.

But, there are other factors in place like your content, product/service reviews, quality, competition, customer service and other areas that together create business success.

Again, digital marketing will bring you leads but in order to win you must also have all the other pieces of the puzzle in the right place.

Myth #4: Social media is important. Let’s make cat videos

I’ve seen quite a few startups that make terrible mistakes when it comes to social media. Instead of figuring out what their target audience is interested in, they go with what’s trending in general.

Cat videos get more likes… let’s make cat videos.

Another mistake that many startups make on social media is to sell their service or product. Social media is not a space where you should hard sell your product or service. It’s a platform to build relationships and interact with your audience in order to create a community around your brand.

Once you decide to launch your business on social media, always research your target persona and see what social media platforms they are on, what they like and dislike, how much time they spend on social media networks and then tailor your social strategy accordingly.

Regardless of what social media platforms you may be focusing on, never hard sell your product or service as you will push potential customers away, and in worst cases, even irritate them enough to spread negative information about your business that is bound to damage your reputation.

Therefore, before you plan to invest in digital marketing, inbound marketing, SEO, social media consultants or any other service, you need to understand the ground realities to help you win over your competitors. Digital Marketing is an important part of your business but unless you have every other aspect of your business in place, winning and creating a name in the market is might not always be easy.

Note: For detailed presentation on myths and realities of digital marketing, join me at DotZero, Karachi, on 14th May 2016.

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