Digital Marketing for Entrepreneurs: What You Need To Know

This article recaps the GIST TechConnect webchat on growing a startup through digital marketing.

(Mira el programa en español.)

The Basics of Digital Marketing Activities

Today, we can catalog digital marketing tools and strategies into groups, specifically, our experts speak briefly about organic and paid social media, paid advertising, content creation, data analytics, and search engine optimization (SEO).

Social Media

In today’s business world, every startup needs a social media strategy. This means looking at both Organic and Paid Social Media. Organic social media is anything we can do on our platforms that is free. This means using tools that social networks provides to build a social community to interact with it, sharing posts and respond to customer comments. Paid social media on the other hand are sponsored messages to social network users based on a user profile. A cost is incurred depending on the type of ad as well as paying per click marketing. Find out which social media platforms are best for your business. Explore some of the top platforms for social media marketing such as:

If you are curious in learning more specifically about paid social media such as Facebook ads, David from Venture Well mentions resources such as The Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Audiences and Targeting and A Deep Dive Into Facebook Advertising.  

Andrew recommends looking at LinkedIn as a place to start. Start with audience research: know where your audience is engaging, where they are going, where are your competitors finding success? It’s easy to run a test, keeping the budget low and letting the data decide if it’s the right strategy or not for your social media channels.

Scott reminds us: your opinion doesn’t always matter. You are not your audience, and not all of your assumptions about your audience will be accurate so it’s important to test. Have your audience decide what phrase or image to use.  

Remember: your social media channels shouldn’t be exclusively a sales channel but really a way to have a conversation with your target audience. It’s about engagement, so make it personal.

Social media strategies also include looking at influencer marketing, which can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be. People who have a following (on Instagram, etc) outside of your circle can make a huge difference.

“People usually aren’t going to give you a plug for free, necessarily, you need to give influencers something of value, which can range from money to trading a link,” says Andrew. What he sees to be effective is to get Influencers involved in the content creation itself. The voice of your company or product doesn’t always have to be you, but influencers by no means are just a voice. They can play a role as partners or have co-ownership in creating content. If they create a content piece themselves, they have a voice and are incentivized to share that content because they are a part of it. They have a sense of ownership, so definitely get them involved as part of your marketing team strategy to try and establish those meaningful relationships.

Establishing these relationships starts with self promotion, being a social networking butterfly, find the influencers in your niche and building a solid relationship with them. Of course self- promotion without sounding pompous is a delicate balance, if you need help selling yourself, check out this resource on Promoting Yourself: Why You Have to Do It and How to Do It Well.    

Paid Advertising

Paid ads are everywhere. You see them on your Google search results, as you scroll through your Facebook feed and in your Instagram Stories. These ads can be an important part of your digital marketing plan, gaining your startup quick exposure. Online advertising, paid channel marketing or pay-per-click (PPC) can do wonders for your website traffic.

David recommends focusing on website conversion as the key indicator of whether you are achieving your online marketing goals. This metric tells you the rate of visitors to your website that go on to take your desired action (purchasing a product, signing up for a newsletter, etc). To further explore this take a look at Increase Website Conversions and What The Highest Converting Websites Do Differently.

If you are trying to sell a product or service, or you are trying to do something you really want people to focus on your services and what you are trying to convey. Paid ads are tempting because you can make money, but you have to be careful to not disrupt users’ experience on your website with those ads.

Andrew mentions that your business model can tell you how effective advertising on your website may be. If your business makes money through ad revenue on your own website, especially if you are a publisher or you are posting content regularly like a news organization, it makes sense. “If ad revenue isn’t your key monetization strategy, I would recommend against it,” says Andrew.

Scott states, “Less is more when it comes to websites.” Your website doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the biggest and best websites out there are very simple. “Look at Apple, their logo has basically stayed the same but it has progressed and you see the same thing with Microsoft” Scott says. Ads don’t always add value to your site. But they can if that is part of your business model.

Data Analytics

How do you know if you are successful? Data. Getting your tracking and data analytics set up is crucial in a society that is made up of data-driven decisions. Digital marketing analytics pulls data from your website, social media, and online media engagement and looks at the traffic, leads, and sales that influence customers.

Scott recommends using Google Analytics coding to track everyone on your site and when they are leaving, which is crucial to identifying fixes for your website.  

Andrew adds that good data analytics is critical for the foundation of your business. To not set them up will cost more in the long run when you end up having to go back and fix this part of your business marketing plan.

Search Engine Optimization

Lastly, our panel of experts breaks down Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and how to use it effectively.

At its core, the goal of optimizing your website whether in the technical coding or the content of the website is to put you in the best position for a search engine like Google or Bing to rank you at the top of the search results when people are looking for related things.

Andrew explains that SEO requires a number of skills. There are very technical skills such as the coding of the website, which needs to be done in such a way that is friendly for Google to read and to find your website. One digital marketing tool that Andrew recommends for this is Webmaster Tools, which walks you through  SEO for your own website. The other skills set is less technical and more about optimizing the content, like keywords or what’s called the “title tag”. Talk about the topics that are important to you and your business to build a brand that helps optimize and expand your SEO.

For SEO, there are a number of services that can help you appear first on any search engine, a few are YOAST, Moz and Ahrefs. You can also consider SEMrush or AccuRanker.

This all said, SEO is constantly changing. Don’t buy a book on SEO because by the time you are setting up the SEO for your website, it is probably already outdated. Instead, monitor your website analytics closely and consistently. Before getting lost in the process of SEO, Scott makes the special note that it takes hard work of six months to a year to have your website in the top results.

While it may seem tempting to just get started on as many digital platforms as possible and figure out the details later running any type of marketing campaign without specific goals is like getting on a boat with no map. Without a digital marketing strategy, you’re not going to achieve the results you want because you won’t have the right content in place to actually get the results. So work on your cadence, make sure it’s consistent. Don’t get caught in the perfectionism. Stumble forward. Don’t wait for the perfect picture. Start with an okay picture and start getting feedback. JUST GET STARTED.

Read Getting Started with Digital Marketing to learn more.