Apart from consulting, most of the hands-on projects we handle at InfinVision are branding and design (graphic & UX) related. For us to do a good job with this, we need to understand the client’s overall communications strategy and especially which online communication channels, they will resort to in order to spread the word about their venture. Keeping this (amongst all other factors) in mind, we can then help our clients to position their ventures more competitively and as a result, to present their brands more authentically.
Today, I’d like to share with you my experiences working with startups and to discuss the confusion that sometimes arises, when it comes to deciding where to focus our communication efforts when launching a new venture / website. With a limited budget and resources, we always want to maximize the investment, don’t we? And that’s the right approach
There are plenty of blogs, articles and all sorts of applications on the web that can help with promoting your brand and a website online. Different consultants have different approaches and the overall online marketing world is quite confusing for most of the people I’ve worked with. And I understand – indeed, it is a bit of a mess. My advice would be to roll up your sleeves and experiment yourself. Only you know what is best for your venture and you can know this even better after trying things out first. You can minimize the risk by taking into account what others advice/say as much as relevant, but you can’t really escape from taking a risk because risk taking is the nature of entrepreneurship. They go hand in hand.
Which communication techniques will actually work for you will depend on a lot of parameters: your positioning, what your competitors are doing, your target audience, decision making cycle before the purchase, your overall luck, how well you implement things, etc. This mix of parameters is unique to each venture. So, trust yourself and your intuition.
Treat it like an experiment. Try a few things, a few channels, a few tools and then see what yields the best results. One thing I would not recommend is putting all your eggs into one basket and invest your entire budget into one thing (unless that thing has already proven to bring you the results). And, let’s admit, it is a bit naïve to expect that your audience will arrive through only one channel.
So, let’s take an example. Most of us are already pretty familiar with the online communication avenues & tools, aren’t we? Well, at least we’ve heard something about them. They are:
- Search engines : Google, Bing
- Online advertising: Google adwords / Facebook ads / Linkedin ads / Microsoft adCenter
- Social media: Blogosphere, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, etc
Let’s say you are launching a new fashion brand with a very original clothes line. So original that people have never even thought about it yet. Well, in this case, your focus should be on creating a buzz about your brand on social media. Either through very original content that could go viral, or through establishing relationships with bloggers and asking them to write about your product or service (or both :)). Writing your own blog is not what will yield you quick traffic – it is a long term endeavor. You could surely start it and gradually build content which will also contribute to your search engine rankings, but treat it more like a spice for a dish (and don’t overdo it, because the dish needs to stay tasty – not over spiced :)).
Search engines could help you to attract people who are searching for old fashioned products and then you could convince them that yours is better. But, the search engine war in the fashion world is a tough one. Lots of big e-commerce websites and portals already have their spaces well reserved. So, this effort might not be a very effective in the short-term. Of course, I am taking here an example from the sky and generalizing – so, before you take my word for it, see what’s going on for your particular case. Maybe it will be an exception
Online advertising in this particular illustration would be an interesting experiment to carry out, but I’d recommend doing it with a small testing budget and not expecting much from it. For a lot of cases, online advertising can be a big money burner (I’ve witnessed it!). But if you dedicate a small budget for the sake of better understanding how people search for your product or service, this could yield you some interesting insights, which you could use to further refine your online marketing efforts. And if this small budget shows that you can actually get a lot of use out of this – great! You might have found that “gem” that will work for you. You could increase your budget over time and see how it goes. But don’t just let it rise with no control because it can quickly skyrocket.
Let us take another example. Let’s say you are in the holiday property renting business. In this case the search engines are very important for you as most people start searching for properties through the search engines. If you have a very original idea for a viral content, it can always help to generate the buzz. But it has to be something really cool – otherwise, it won’t have any impact. Online advertising here could be very dangerous. Holiday property rental market is a very competitive one (unless you are very niche) and the decision making period is quite long before people take action. Be very careful with putting your money here. Having a testing budget can help you de-mystify this avenue and decide from there.
So, my main piece of advice is to first select 3 techniques that at this moment, you think are the best ones to attract your audience. Don’t try to do everything at the same time – this can become a trap which will get you nowhere. It will be too hard to manage and thus you’ll lose the focus and get confused. Experiment with these chosen 3 techniques and do it well. After 2 or 3 months (for the search engines you need a bit more time, like 4 months) decide whether they are yielding you good results, reshuffle the mix by removing/adding new techniques and move on. Don’t get attached to any of the techniques and try to be objective in the way you make your choices. Step by step, as they say