Believe it or not, but 2019 is has arrived. For entrepreneurs, that means it’s time to prepare the roadmap for how you’ll grow your startup in the year ahead. The list of imperatives for a business owner is endless… from revenue projections, funding rounds, sales and marketing plans, the list goes on.
It can seem like a stressful time, but with every new year comes the opportunity to re-invigorate and elevate your business strategies. It’s a chance to inject some fresh creativity, inspiration and passion back into every aspect of your business, especially your marketing strategy.
Let’s be honest, with the continuous wave of new technology introduced to market, there’s no shortage of opportunities to spice up how you connect with and influence your customers. The real challenge lies in understanding how to amp up your efforts using methods that are efficient, effective and deliver on your startup’s particular goals.
Here are four fresh strategies to help send your 2019 marketing efforts into hyperdrive:
A “bulletproof” understanding of your key customer
Thanks to the rise of new technology like voice applications, augmented reality, virtual reality, AI and machine learning, it can be difficult not to get caught up in trying to weave the latest innovation into your marketing plans. But when bootstrapped for cash and attention, you’ve got limited resources to “get it right” and make a true impact within your market. Focus the majority of your energy and resources on data to really understand who your customer is. I.e., how they’re influenced to purchase, the ways they prefer to shop, where and when they chose to engage. Knowing these niche details enables you to understand which channels make sense to use for connecting with your customers and how to create truly impactful experiences with your target audience.
Allow your startup to take a cue from Nordstrom Local, a big brand with an agile approach, which launched drop-in retail hubs for the holidays. These local pop-ups didn’t actually sell merchandise, but instead, offered services tailored to the digital shopper, including free online pickup, easy returns and quick alterations. All of which create a unique, innovative and in-person experience. As a result, the company gathered plenty of intel on how to market to these customers in the coming year.
Get to understanding dark social
With various sources of online traffic data available, such as Google Analytics or Google Trends, it’s maddening to think that there’s valuable data out there that’s inaccessible to marketers. But dark social, the act of sharing content through private channels like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, email and native mobile apps like Instagram, has concealed a whole world of web traffic data and consumer insights that can’t be measured.
For example, according to a report by RadiumOne, 46 percent of consumers age 55 and older communicate only via dark social – representing a huge missed opportunity for those that target this demographic and have not taken the time to fully understand their key audiences and how they engage across digital channels.
To understand what the impact of dark social might be on your business, take a look at your web traffic to see what percentage of that traffic isn’t giving you insight. Then at every chance, ask prospects and customers how they heard about your business. By asking directly and logging that data, you’ll start to discover trends around who is spreading the word and who you should consider working with closer in 2019.
For example, you may want to do special promos at checkout for dark social engagements, like 10 percent off for someone who mentions that they heard about your business on WhatsApp.
Forget influencers, use ambassadors
As a startup, you can’t always go big with your marketing efforts, or cough up the cash to get a social media influencer like Kim Kardashian to mention your company in an Instagram post. Instead, use brand ambassadors, a lower cost alternative and effective method for building organic brand awareness and getting your product in front of an audience that’s already willing to pay for the goods or services your business offers.
Ambassadors don’t have to be high profile celebrities; they can be your already existing fans. Recruiting them is easy, just look to industry blogs and social media pages to identify individuals who are already talking about your products positively across their personal communities. The benefit of getting free or exclusive access to new product or insider perks and discounts is incredibly effective in boosting word-of-mouth marketing and building loyalty among your existing customer base.
West + Wilder, a wine brand launched in 2018, is using brand ambassadors as part of its marketing program and as a way to connect with those that share their values and passion for great wine experiences. While they have proposals from many influencers coming their way, they believe working closely with a group of ambassadors will take their business farther in 2019.
“Ambassadors give us great feedback, offering up ideas and acting like an ongoing mini focus group. They are really powerful in helping us understand how to maintain loyalty,” Matt Allen, co-founder of West + Wilder, said.
Become a thought leader within your industry’s community
When your business is in growth mode, it can become easy to be consumed by your to do list. And while you have to get the daily list done to survive, the longer-term success of your business requires time spent on behaving famously.
Most people are inclined not to brag or boast about their work, but being able to confidently talk about your business and put yourself in places and situations where your customers, competitors and ecosystem partners are is a necessary strategic move. It can boost brand awareness, attract new customers and make your startup top of mind for those who matter most within your industry.
So, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and get out there for coffee with an influencer in your industry or stretch yourself into a speaking role this year. Your business will thank you for it.