As a start-up, one of your first considerations when kicking off your business will be the creation and implementation of your digital strategy if you decide to take this route. In a world where businesses are increasingly adopting an online-only approach over establishing a physical shopfront, the importance of forming a digital presence is increasing. A digital strategy, if successful, can drastically reduce overheads and simplify daily management through the click of a button.
In order to establish the needs of your business, you will need to carry out competitor analysis and acknowledge industry benchmarks. In addition to this, carrying out market research will help you identify customer needs which you can mirror in your marketing strategy. The findings from your market research will also help clear the mist around what sort of budget you should set aside for dedicated platforms. After establishing a vision for your marketing strategy, you will then be faced with the decision of whether to recruit a dedicated member of staff to oversee your marketing strategy or if you’re starting off with low funds, you may decide to learn the ropes.
Importance of a digital presence for new businesses
In addition to driving traction to your shopfront, it’s vital to establish a digital presence to mark your existence in the marketplace. Begin by identifying digital platforms which you believe will support your business from a customer exposure point of view. By analysing the practice followed by competitors, you can cherry-pick platforms and flesh out effective methods of targeting customers which will help form the shell of your marketing strategy.
Your next decision will be to understand whether you want to stop there by just establishing and maintaining your presence, or take it a step further by establishing the daily operations of your business online, creating a digital shopfront from which you can accept custom and hard sell, capitalising off the exposure.
You’ll find that not every approach will be appropriate for your business as this will be mitigated by your sector and the service on offer. For example, if your product is tangible and can be photographed effectively, you may turn to visual social media such as Instagram. If you’re able to sell your product online, you will need to make further considerations when planning a website, such as the integration of a payment system and functionality to catch customer data. If you’re able to link to an online shop, this opens the door to a number of possibilities as you can venture into advertising through search engines and remarketing, amongst other methods to catch customers.
Social Media for Business
Social media can help expose your brand name to prospective customers, soft sell through advertisements and draw publicity to your services, your brand message, business ethics, and anything other areas you wish to publically advertise. Social media can also be used to form an emotional connection with customers. As a start-up, the roots of the business are typically grown by a group of creatively minded individuals or an individual passionate about nurturing a business idea into a fully-fledged, functioning service. This is a story which customers may feel inspired by and be able to emotionally connect with, giving you a social media opportunity to share your roots and the story behind the birth of your business.
In practice, an increasing number of brands are taking pride in their economically friendly approach in the daily running of their business and the production of their products, using social media to shout about this. This makes way for customers to follow an emotional motive in purchasing from a certain supplier, quickly winning loyalty points and establishing a value-based relationship.
For example, Riverford are providers of organic food and operate to deliver fresh, organic fruit and veg from their farm to your table. By sharing the story of their fair farming practices and the organic treatment of their fruit and veg, ethically conscious customers can make emotional purchases.
Social media can offer an illustrative platform allowing you to show each step of the production process, from seed to bloom. In addition to this, you can include the following:
- Affiliations – commercial sponsorships, brand partnerships
- Corporate Social Responsibility – charitable affiliations, fundraising events
- Customer Reviews – feedback, client videos
- Hard Sell – product placement, advertisements, shopping link
- Celebrity Culture – influencers, paid advertising
- Incentives – promos, sales, reductions
What platform is best for my business?
Each social media platform holds a different purpose, for example:
LinkedIn – professional networking to boost credibility and maintain connections
Instagram – visual & creative promotion, storytelling
Facebook – customer service based and communication
Twitter – customer service based and maintaining the brand profile
Social media platforms are regularly experimenting with different tools to help enhance the experience for businesses, such as the Facebook Google bot which is essentially a live chat feature with automated messages to filter queries. In reality, prior to committing to a social media platform, consider if you have the capacity to update your social media platforms regularly and maintain them.
Diving into online advertising
This is a different arena in itself which will require a certain level of experience and understanding. It’s vital to note that stepping into the world of digital advertising can be rewarding, however, money can dwindle away fast so set a budget and implement a strategy to maximise this.
Starting with search engines, the most popular are Google and Bing, both of which offer a vast array of advertising opportunities. You can do so by taking two routes, organic which is free but time-consuming, or paid which can be expensive but quick to generate results. The key is to A/B test advertisements and analyse user behaviour to ensure that you’re feeding the search queries sufficiently.
Online advertising opens up a full breadth of connected tasks, such as the creation of landing pages, compliant data capture and conversion tracking which will require time and commitment from an experienced individual.
Search Engine Optimisation
Search engine optimisation is the practice of optimising your website to give it the best possible chance of ranking in the relevant search engine, increasing your chances of receiving traffic. This will assist in driving customers to your shop front so it’s important to ensure that your content is search engine friendly. This ranges from the technical SEO perspective, using keywords to naturally attract searchers and publishing informative content which answers readers’ questions.
Engineering an effective digital strategy can drive interest and funnel leads through your website, establishing digital as a qualified source for new business. The nature of digital marketing is that as there are lots of different strategies within the digital sphere which can help promote your business, you have the flexibility to pick and choose the best paths to take and exclude the areas you are less passionate about.
Before embarking on your digital journey, ensure that you’ve fleshed out the identity of your business, your tone of voice and the approach you would like to take. As a new business, you have the mouthpiece to share innovative and fresh ideas to a newly established customer base, giving you the chance to elevate industry benchmarks and rethink best practice.
John Baird is a partner at Scotland Debt Solutions, offering personal debt solutions such as Trust Deeds, Sequestration and Debt Arrangement Schemes to residents struggling from debt in Scotland.
Also published on Medium.