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Starting a successful business is all about having a great product with strong market demand and a well-executed marketing strategy. Many entrepreneurs wonder when it’s too soon or too late to begin marketing a new business. To help them, we've classified the marketing initiatives into four stages of a business. Each stage represents a step forward toward a roadmap that will help keep your business up and running. The following tips are about when (timing) and what should you do at which stage to generate more leads and optimize sales with fewer investments.
Beta (Proof of Concept) Stage
At this stage, you’re able to demonstrate the feasibility of your business idea and verify its market potential. Pre-launch marketing will help you establish an audience presence beforehand to increase customer acquisition.
Step 1: Create a strategic marketing plan before you start working on the beta stage, explaining how it will help you to reach your goal. Every startup founder will need this plan to find their first beta customers, present to their investors and measure their goals.
The plan should include information about the market need of your product or service; product cost and features; competitive products, product manufacturing and distribution costs; the investment required; and all internal and external resources you'll need. It should also include the answers to common questions about the product or service, such as what it does, what makes it different, who is the target audience, how to reach them (marketing tactics), and how soon you can become profitable if all goes well.
Step 2: Communicate your marketing strategy by using the channels and tools that can generate the highest impact – email, paid media, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or any other, where you can find a maximum target audience. Before starting, you must have established your company name, logo, email domain, and website to drive the traffic. Your website should clearly state your goals, vision, products, services and launch date. Attend events and conferences related to your business to gain early traction before completing the prototype.
Step 3: Create the pre-launch hype and convert it into customer leads by sending beta invites, including a sign-up form on your website, and holding contests with rewards. Your sign-up form should collect only necessary information as the user will likely give up if it is time consuming. Leverage your social media platform for contests to grow your following and turn them into customers. Such engagements can also motivate your potential customers to sign up early, thus driving website traffic.
Pilot (Minimum Viable Product) Stage
At this stage, you’re ready with a version of your product to satisfy early customers and you plan to use their feedback to improve future product development.
Step 1: Collect email addresses from your website traffic to nurture leads and add subscribers to your email list. You can then use email marketing to inform subscribers about your new product launch, blogs, a product demo video, upcoming events, new sales, and much more.
Join your Chamber of Commerce (or other groups) to stay connected with your community and other business owners. Set up a customer referral program to motivate your customers to refer your business to others.
Partner with the right influencers who have large social followings in your community to promote your business on their distribution channels. These people can be bloggers, educators, journalists or other business owners, who can recommend your brand to their followers.
Step 2: Get customers to offer feedback on the prototype to ensure that your final product or service effectively addresses the target audience’s needs. Your pre-launch marketing and customer feedback will likely pay off immediately after the product launch.
Turning Leads into Sales
At this stage, you need to generate more leads and convert them into customers. When your customer hears you on the radio, sees you in a search engine result, and then finds you mentioned in a blog (content marketing), they will start to accept your brand as a known entity.
Step 1: Run multiple types of marketing campaigns to build brand awareness. Then measure the results to compare marketing channels and identify which perform best. PR activities, like local news or blogs, can add a lot to your credibility and brand awareness. Set up Google Alerts to monitor what’s being published about your business online. Create and post valuable content regularly on your marketing platforms to make sure information about your company is up-to-date and easy to find.
Step 2: Assign a team or one person for search engine optimization (SEO). Set up your free Google listing to help new customers find you when they search for terms related to your business. By publishing new blogs regularly, you can win a higher search ranking. Thus, more website traffic, more followers, and more leads will ultimately translate into increased profits. Positive online reviews are also an excellent source of referrals that make consumers trust your business.
Making a Profit
If you’re earning a profit, consider your business ready to invest in paid advertising, assuming you have the budget for it. Digital ads enable you to drive new traffic to your website and allow you to reach more potential customers that can lead to more sales. The following are a few popular advertising mediums to invest in marketing.
- Search Engine Marketing - This refers to advertisements that appear at the top of search engine results.
- Video or Social Media Marketing - This includes ads on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media sites to help shift a person from a visitor to a lead, and eventually to a customer.
- Podcast or Radio Advertising – Podcasts exist across almost every industry and interest, making it a prime advertising channel. Sponsoring a podcast or hosting an ad enables you to reach your ideal customers in a place where they’re actively listening.
- Display or Print Media Advertising - Newspaper ads, magazine spreads and outdoor signage let you communicate with local and national customers, but keep in mind that internet ads are typically easier to track than television or print ads.
- Content and Mobile Advertising - This refers to paid or sponsored content on a website and mobile apps.
Be sure to send each ad landing page to your website and place an analytics code on every page of your site to track each visit. After a few months of your product launch, start analyzing every marketing strategy to measure the results. Your business marketing plan needs to evolve as you grow, and new marketing trends develop.