Web presence is the key factor in business these days. Word of mouth is social media, and brand equity will determine the trustworthiness of your business. Your website is your waiting room, showroom and office — it’s the image you project and the message you’re sending. Don’t do it halfway, nobody trusts an amateur. Go to great lengths early on in your startup to ensure that you are managing your brand’s reputation and interacting with (potential) customers positively. The abyss of the Internet has created dark corners for shady businesses to betray their customers, which makes folks weary and skeptical of new kids on the web block. Online reputation and visibility are paramount to gaining foot traffic and earning trust. Here are a few digital marketing tactics every startup should implement from Day 1:
1. User Friendly Web Interface
In 2012, it doesn’t matter if you’re selling geese that lay golden eggs, if your website is difficult to navigate, cluttered or sloppy; folks will leave the page and search elsewhere. The Internet is a pretty free place and due to the location independence of web commerce there is competition for the best customer experience just as much as there is for good prices. Spend the time to do it right and hire smart when it comes to setting up your website, this will make or break you in the beginning. I shop at Zappos.com for this very reason. I believe that founder and CEO Tony Hsieh had a vision for his company culture that would translate into the user interface and customer relations formed out of uncompromised standards and a dedication to happiness for all parties involved. Zappos is a terrific example of how a small start-up became a multi-million dollar online retailer without offering any sort of unique products. I recommend you read Hsieh’s manifesto Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.
2. Social Media and Brand Importance
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, company blogs and multimedia communications should not be an aside, but rather should be a main spoke in the fulcrum for launching any business. The company should have a blog with multiple posts each week as well as guest postings to other blogs. With a million things popping up in people’s faces every day, it’s incumbent on you to create memorable content that emerges from today’s clutter. How many times have you been surfing the web or searching and you run across something you thought was remarkable? Many times I’m sure, but how many times do you forget about it 10 seconds after you navigate away from the site, never to return again?
Be in the limelight often enough to be remembered for something unique and interesting enough to grab attention. Even if you’re a company that sells the most mundane item, use your media presence to show off your company’s personality. Check out this article on Advertising Age about the top 10 social-media campaigns in 2011 and see how a small town in Switzerland, population 79, garnered 14,000 fans on Facebook.
3. Search Engine Optimization
If people can’t find you, they can’t patronize your business. You may want to outsource this to an online marketing firm unless you have the resources to dedicate to doing this properly yourself. Google’s algorithm that determines page rank is the all-seeing-eye that cannot be cheated. SEO should not be considered an afterthought, perhaps it is the word ‘optimization’ that makes businesses think they can take it or leave it, but this is absolutely not the case. Proper, legal, well-done SEO can mean the difference between whether your website gets buried on page 50 or graces page 1. Cheating with SEO will probably result in a major penalty like it did for JC Penney last year and Overstock.com this year. So follow the rules, SEO can be done very successfully within the bounds set forth by search engines.
When you start your business, you’ll soon realize that these tactics will make a difference in the long-run. Hire great people and keep them happy, offer superior customer service, and follow the aforementioned tips. Do that and you will be off to a good start and have a fighting chance in the competitive market of today’s business world.