Not everyone’s going to buy your product, I learned that the hard way – that’s the way it goes for most.
We launch businesses and blogs and market the hell out of them but more often than not, efforts fail. Customers are not created equal. Visitors and page likes are ego stats – meaningless. Who gives a crap how many eyeballs your brand gets if the bottom-line’s bottoming out.
Let’s fix some false beliefs about building a business, Kickstarter and beyond and create something kinda cool in the process.
Options Aplenty – Marketing is Mayhem
There are two things you must remember when it comes to product promotion: a) there’s an infinite possibilities and b) success only comes from understanding chaos.
Simple enough, right?
Entrepreneurs unravel here constantly. Marketing and exposure WILL make or break your business – the end result only depends on your approach.
Unfortunately most startup founders, myself included, are incredibly naive in the beginning. Crowdfunders assume a killer product sells itself. We’ve harped on this time and time again but still the myth prevails. And even entrepreneurs that understand salesmanship often miss the most important piece, testing.
Finding Marketing Gold Mines
Gold mining’s a game of chance – chance and perseverance. The same could be said of successful product marketing – prospecting is key. As the entrepreneur you may have a good idea where start. Unfortunately it’s wrong.
Always assume your assumptions are wrong, at least until proven otherwise. Approach marketing and customer acquisition as an experiment, rather than a foregone conclusion.
And experiments rarely go as planned. Many of the great discoveries are mere accidents, the result of unexpected tests. The same is true in customer acquisition so start testing immediately. Cast a net, count your fish and come back smarter the next day.
Ways to Win with Marketing and Media
Though your early assumptions are almost inevitably wrong, we need to start somewhere. We need a plan and random rarely works well.
For businesses that crowdfunded, you have a distinct advantage – data. Both Kickstarter and Indiegogo have built in analytics and tracking system. Start here! See where the majority of backers are based, came from and create some customer personas – this information will be incredibly valuable in the coming steps.
Either way, businesses need to understand their ideal customer. Are you or anyone you know in the target demographic? If so you’re in luck, you’ve got the inside track to understanding your audience, where they hang out and how best to reach them.
If not, it’s time explore your demographic, ie research. Find out where folks interested in your offerings are easiest to reach. Google’s a great place to start.
Beginning searching blogs, forums and communities to get a feel of audience and keep an excel sheet of your findings. Make note of the especially active or related sites as we’ll want to come back to these. To analyze each, use a tool like SimilarWeb to find audience stats, common refers and other valuable information about the site’s visitors – metrics to help decide promotion strategies.
This post is a bit of continuation of Getting Customers to Your Ecommerce Store after Kickstarter. Check out the 6 strategies of customer acquisition previously discussed and the…
A Extra Few Hidden Exposure Gems
Reddit rules the internet – a forum for any and everything and great place to start. Go in knowing that spam posts and link bait are ruthlessly routed and Redditors can brutal and you’ll be okay.
Become a member of the important subreddits and contribute – create a name for yourself. Reddit can also be a massive traffic source and discussion board to test products and ideas but it takes some getting use to. After engaging a bit, Reddit ads are highly targeted, under-utilized and engaging way to start reaching a bigger base.
Ps. avoid endless hours on Reddit at all cost…it’s addictive!
Facebook’s another double-edged sword for entrepreneurs but if you control the urges and avoid the newsfeed, read on…
Facebook’s powerful because it’s the dominant social media platform today, the main place individuals connect, share and occasionally even buy. And groups are a great place to get started, there’s something for everyone.
Use the search and join and contribute to the communities, focusing on active and low spam for maximum engagement. Groups can be a great way to share content, coupons and start a dialogue – not all are created equal though. This will take some fine tuning.
Ps. growing your own group can put you in the driver seat but takes time or money, maybe a more long run approach…
Note: Google+ has its own community architecture too but I’ve never gotten good results – it’s all about testing though so try it out!
3. Blogs, Banner Ads, Sponsors, Guest Posts and Product Reviews
Most media sites are built off ad revenue – more readers, more content, more cash for the company. This means engaging articles are always in high demand. And through your research certain sites likely came up again and again, use these channels to potentially reach customers.
There’s four main ways to get in front of existing readerships: ads, guest posts, sponsorships and product reviews. And of course each of these has pros and cons but typically sites dictate the rules.
For most crowdfunders, product reviews work great to boost campaigns but lose steam as the excitement fades. Additionally they can be expensive, require shipping and don’t last or scale(they are one-off and can’t have recurring product reviews).
Another intriguing way to get prime real estate on big time blogs and bring readers back to your site are guest posts. Guest posts, unlike ads and product reviews, are often less sales focused and more effective at building audiences and nurturing potential customers. Rather than pitching a product or a salesy ad, guest posts allow individuals with time and expertise to share valuable insights and build trust and ideally email lists without paying for ad space.
This can be great option for experienced entrepreneurs or higher end products but the challenges to scale and continue to put out quality content prevent guest posting from becoming a larger and more profitable acquisition channel.
Like billboards of web, banner ads have been a mainstay in marketing since the dawn of the internet. Strangely however, most crowdfunders don’t take advantage of this scalable, recurring system to reach to targeted buyers.
The beauty of banner ads is the ease at which they can be set up, tested and scaled. Many site owners have advertising information readily available and with a well designed graphic, a few quick emails and paypal transfer can have your product peering back at readers when they visit the site.
Podcast and Blog Sponsorships
The last relatively untapped but potentially lucrative promotion channel product entrepreneurs should try out are dedicated sponsorships. Like a Calloway charity golf event, a BCS bowl sponsorship(I know the BCS is dead but…) or a brief blurb on a talk show, companies pay to put their names on events and entertainment around their ideal customer.
Much like banner ads, sponsorships have long term potential and are easily tested for profitability. One interesting and unsaturated market to test are podcasts. As listenerships grow and podcasting becomes more professionalized, prices for sponsorships will continue to increase. Today it’s a buyer’s market though – start testing some short promos.
The Importance of Analytics
Experimentation isn’t hard though, it’s just tedious. It’s the results and trends that matter, the hidden gems.
It’s time to start tracking everything – information is power. From keywords that convert to audience bounce rates, the more you know about who, how and where the better.
For simplicity sake, let’s assume you’re ecommerce entrepreneur(this is still important for wholesale, retail and other business models but get more complicated). So, you have an online store(a guide to setting up a successful ecommerce store). You’re looking to grow, scale and better understand your customer.
Here’s A Few Analytics Tools to Get Started
Step one, just get Google Analytics! Google’s free tracking software is incredibly powerful, especially in the right hands. With the power comes some complexity and challenges however.
Luckily Google’s got their own free Analytics Academy to help users get started and there’s plenty of other great resources online as well.
To understand ad spend and promotion strategy success, you NEED to understand where customers come from. While analytics packages like Google Analytics have decent tracking, to get a more complete picture of exactly which ads, posts and pages send Good and Bad traffic, you need custom links.
An example: You run two different banner ads on TechCrunch promoting your product, one at the top, one at the side. You get tons of traffic, 20 new customers and only spent $200 for the week in ads…sounds great right? But if both banners cost $100 a week and 19 of your sales came from a single one, wouldn’t you like to know? Link shorteners give you this information and more and often plug right into Google Analytics!
Facebook Conversion Pixels
If you’re thinking about graduating to Facebook advertising for your company, it’s important to understand tracking pixels, essentially a conversion tracking tool for opt ins, sales or whatever marketing you’re looking to implement. Because this isn’t a post on PPC or Facebook ads we’ll leave it at that but to learn more about Facebook tracking and advertising, recent podcast guest Neil Patel has a great guide to get you started.
Not all analytics need be high tech. Tried and true customer surveys can still play large role in your businesses attempts to better understand audience better and buying patterns. And there are plenty of free options to quickly create and poll your customers or readers, Survey Monkey and Google Forms are great places to get started.
Surveys can be challenging though. To maximize the effectiveness, avoid leading questions, long surveys and bothering customers too frequently. Incentivized participation never hurt response rates either.
Some Linking Tracking Tips
Analytics are ONLY powerful if you take advantage of them. This means segmenting strategies and custom links for each promotion, post and share.
And if at first it seems tedious, that’s because it is. There’s a reason marketers and analytics professionals get paid well for the services, it’s hard and it works.
On your own and with a few simple strategies though, you can do alright. Plus in the end, data makes the difference!
1. All Ads Need Custom Links
This one’s pretty straightforward. To track which ad spends actually bring in money, use customs links, analyze afterward and cut the losers.
2. Create Custom Links for Community Posting
In an ideal world you’d create a custom link every time you posted something – Facebook, ads, Twitter…you name it. But it’s impractical. Instead group common efforts together, especially by date and segment more as necessary.
In English that means when I’m sharing a Shido Stand update to Facebook groups or emailing Art of the Kickstart listeners about new post, I should create a custom link every time to track the effectiveness(in all honesty I don’t always but usually try too!).
3. Use Shortened Links for Promos
Whether sponsoring a podcast or sharing your site via word of mouth, it make sense to make it simple. For our Art of the Kickstart campaign guide, we use ArtOfTheKickstart.com/checklist. Similarly simple, easy to remember urls will make it easier on you and the audience when trying to get people back to your site.
Making Sense of Marketing
Marketing can be madness or madly profitable, it all depends on how you approach it. Big businesses blow billions every year with ads, sponsorships and promotions – all without a way to track results – hence massive corporate ad expenditures.
As an owner of a small but determined startup, that’s isn’t an option for you. Solopreneurs bootstrap businesses and put their livelihood on the line every day. I for one can’t afford to leave success up to chance, can you?
Start profitable, stay profitable – you need only know what works.