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Jonathan Wickham

How My Startup Became a Contender in the First 6 Months

Jonathan Wickham
How My Startup Became a Contender in the First 6 Months

When my partner and I started our inbound marketing business at the end of 2013, we felt like we’d been thrown into a compound full of 800-pound gorillas. Attempting to go head to head with well-established companies is a common addlepated goal for online entrepreneurs.

But our addlepated-ness paid off. It wasn’t long before we were on the first page of the search results and pulling in business we were barely prepared to handle.

We’d like to share how we took traditional business concepts and tweaked them to fit our completely online approach. So without further ado, here are the top techniques we used to gain market share and build our brand into a thriving business.

Focus On a Niche

The Internet may be the place to find anything, but we didn’t want to get caught up in shifting our boundaries to meet the needs of every entitled and demanding client out there.

Many businesses try to be too many things to too many people. As a young startup, trying to offer a wide range of diverse products and services makes it extremely difficult to build any one thing that is truly extraordinary.

Our company’s broad value proposition is to increase customers’ online visibility.

smart-content-marketing

Rather than follow the traditional model of offering 10 or 15 different online products, we chose to focus on building fulfillment processes for just four root services to give us the bandwidth to construct a high-end product instead of a dozen mediocre services.

Focusing on a niche service has also given us the ability to focus our SEO on very specific search terms that drew in the customers who were looking for exactly what we had. It didn’t hurt that this focus also shot us to the first page of the SERPs.

Developing a niche provided the time and energy we needed to build high-quality fulfillment processes, customer service and reporting.

Become the Expert

With search engines discouraging traditional SEO techniques, we knew we had to build up our brand as the authority in the industry. We decided to share what we knew with our potential audience.

It was a tough decision to “give away” our knowledge because we worried they wouldn’t need inbound marketing services if we told them how we do it. But we were basing our business on inbound marketing and we knew it would work both for our customers and the search engines. It would position us as a thought leader and authority in the industry.

beginner-guide-inbound-marketing

Consumers and businesses alike are looking to engage with companies that are innovators and experts. They trust experts and turn to them when they realize that the experts can do a better job than they can with a DIY approach.

Offering educational material is really the best way to show your level of expertise.

1. Build a Killer Resource Section on the Website

A robust resource section on the website is a great way to offer readers an education in inbound marketing. And that doesn’t mean they don’t want to hire us to do the work for them. We thought of it as a chance to show our expertise and articulate our industry knowledge.

2. Optimize Content Marketing

Content marketing is quickly becoming one of most used online marketing tactics. Building a corporate blog that consistently puts out high quality industry information props your brand up as the expert and gives Google a reason to place your website higher in the SERPs.

3. Get Involved With the Industry Community

Getting involved in the industry conversation on different social media networks is a great way to increase authority.

Before you get started with a social media campaign, make sure you listen. The worst thing you could do would be to barge into the social space with a bunch of promotional junk that turns off readers. Listen and then weigh in with your professional opinion.

Have a Better Price Point

Having a lower price point was an easy way to separate our company from the competition. While having a lower profit margin makes it more difficult to grow a bank account, it gives potential customers a reason to give you a shot.

A lower price point is great, but only if potential customers know about it. We successfully used these delivery methods to get the word out about our affordability and beat our competition.

1.    Remarketing Ads

Remarketing is a fantastic way to turn interested users into qualified leads. Our favorite is Google’s AdWords platform.

remarketing-ad

When a person visits your site, Google places a cookie on their browser. They will then receive custom ads for the next 30 days. Designing your ads to reflect a better price point is a great way to find new customers.

2.    LinkedIn & Facebook Ads

Both Facebook and LinkedIn have great advertising networks. Both allow you to select the specific demographic you want to reach. We include some messaging about our price point in order to generate interest in our service.

lead-generation-ad

Show Your Customers You Care

We found making the sale is about far more than the products. Treating our customers better than other companies in our industry is an easy way to separate ourselves from the crowd.

According to a recent study conducted by Accenture Global Consumer Pulse, 62 percent of global consumers switched service providers due to a poor customer service experience.

The Internet has put the power back into the hands of the consumer. Having easy access to a wide range of vendors offering similar services has greatly reduced switching cost. That’s why we decided to make customer service an ongoing priority.

We adopted several policies that increased our customer care level.

1.    Resolve Issues as Fast as Possible

Eighty-two percent of consumers said having their issue resolved quickly was the most important aspect of customer service.

In order to resolve concerns in a timely manner, you first need to be aware of the problem. We developed a program for fielding questions and coming up with solutions first thing.

2.    Live Chat

Live chat has turned into a really easy way to connect with your customers in real time. We’ve seen big companies like Google, Rackspace and HostMonster utilize live chat as the first option for resolving issues.

live-chat-support

If your company is small with limited resources, you may have to be the person who runs the live chat program. There are really easy apps you can download to your phone. This will make it so you can connect 24 hours a day.

3.    Social Media

Networks like Facebook and Twitter have made it extremely easy to interact with your customers. According to the LivePerson Research Study, improving customer service has been the most important benefit that has come out of social media for premium level companies.

4.    Reward Long-Term Clients with Extra Value

Lately, we’ve been seeing lots of companies offer special pricing or promotions to new clients. How is this supposed to make the customers who have been loyal to your brand feel? If you are going to run some kind of promotion to help find new customers, make sure you do the same for your current book of business.

Providing current clients with additional value is a great way to show your appreciation. It’s also helpful with up-selling customers. Continuing to offer your best to long-term customers will keep them from feeling like they need to look elsewhere.

Conclusion

The Internet has leveled the playing field and given startups a way to compete with the industry giants. Separating your business from the crowd will ensure long-term growth and company prosperity. Focusing on creating a better specific product, industry authority and top-quality customer service are the stepping stones we, and you, can use to slay the goliaths in your sector of the market.

Header image: Canva and Pixabay

Jonathan Wickham has been in the online marketing industry for over 7 years. He is the current CEO of Digital Flavor Enterprises. DF was called one of the top 3 fastest growing inbound marketing agencies at the Portland IMA Conference in 2014. You can read this page for more about the Digital Flavor’s marketing philosophy. His last article for SEMrush was "How My Startup Became a Contender in the First 6 Months."

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