By David Strom
One of the hardest things that a startup can do is get its marketing act together. Part of the problem is that entrepreneurs are passionate about creating their business, but not necessarily savvy about setting the right tone for the pitch. Another part is what Marcia Kadanoff, the CEO of OpenMarketing.com says where “many smaller companies can’t always find the right mix of marketing skills or people. You have to be an expert in so many areas, including SEO, content marketing, automation tools and other tasks. Plus, many marketing folks aren’t good people managers.”

Kadanoff, who has served as the Chief Marketing Officer for numerous startups in Silicon Valley and got her start doing marketing at Apple, says that any inbound marketing campaign has three main elements: First is getting found and requires search-friendly content at the heart of your marketing campaigns. “Don’t limit the conversation to your website alone. These days, you need high-impact compelling content to put out there where your potential target can find it. And I’m not talking the boring stuff. No one ever bought because you bored them to death. It’s a very rare small business that can create fun, engaging content that can serve as lead bait. So yes, get professional help. A website for your business will cost you anywhere from $0 (if you do it yourself) to $100K+ or more but personally we don’t believe you need to spend more than $5-$15K these days to get a hard-working website that will meet your business objectives. Don’t blow your whole budget on your website. Marketing — whether online or off — is best handled as an ongoing process, which means you want to budget for this 12 months a year. Use social media and distribute your brand at the right points of conversation to help you get found by more people. Build a larger audience for your products and services gradually over time.”

Second, start converting visitors into sales leads, and then these leads into customers. Any suggestions for lead gen tools? Finally, optimize your website, rethink your landing pages and examine the campaigns you have used to see how you can do them better. “Just because someone worked in marcom or demand generation at a big company and got laid off, doesn’t make them an appropriate resource for your company. Look for folks who understand how to use online marketing for businesses to drive results in a closed-loop fashion. By closed-loop we mean all the way from a click on your website to revenue.”

Do business people need to know what a landing page is and how to do A/B testing before diving in to online marketing? “Not at all,” she says. “A good agency will take the time to educate you about what you need and why you need it.”

She has a few other suggestions too. “First look for a mix of skills and talents. As a small business, you will typically be able to hire one or two people to handle your marketing. When you outsource your marketing, you should be getting access to an entire team of talented individuals, people you could not afford to hire in on a full-time basis.

Second, look for a firm that is truly collaborative. The traditional agency model where the agency does everything for you is dead and buried. Think about social media. You can’t have your agency do social media for you – you’ll lose the authentic voice and without that you will fail. Look for an agency that will teach you how to use social media and truly wants to share the workload with you. Clients make the work we produce on their behalf better. They really do.”

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