Guidance on small biz digital marketing essentials


I need some advice for one of my more challenging classes. I’m an undergrad studying business administration, and this one digital marketing class is a real struggle. The assignments have us cite at least three references, but more are encouraged.

This week, I’m supposed to give theoretical advice to a consulting startup deciding whether or not to allocate some of the budget to marketing or focus only on the product and sales. Having no experience, and being only a freshman, I have no idea where to begin.

What kind of advice would be realistic?

This probably isn’t as difficult as you suspect it to be but there’s no harm in sending you in the right direction. There are a host of things to consider before giving a startup business advice. It’s impossible to cover everything because much of that guidance would depend on the circumstances unique to the business itself. That being said, there are still some fundamentals that are almost universally applicable.

The first step is understanding the startup’s business model. It could be a product- or service-based company or some combination of the two. Carlos Saba, co-founder of The Happy Startup School, published an informative Medium article evaluating the pros and cons of each business model. That’s a great place to begin your research. Many of his key takeaways could act as standalone guidance but don’t let that prevent you from further investigation.

Once you understand what the business plans to do to create value for customers and how they plan to do it, the next step is determining whether or not they have any customers to serve. While services often have the luxury of catering to more mature markets (e.g., hospitality, consulting, corporate events, etc.), new products rarely have existing customers, which means you have to find them. And you can bet that launching a website is absolutely essential when it comes to customer acquisition.

Forbes contributor Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle highlighted three reasons why websites are vital to any small business. All three are valid but the third is probably the most immediately relevant to a startup: “no website means losing business,” she writes. Fledgling companies simply can’t afford to lose new business opportunities.

You’re lucky because there was a period not too long ago when the idea of launching a website alone would’ve been preposterous. Those were times when knowing how to write viable code was necessary to launch a website but especially those websites dedicated to a business. Fortunately, things have changed significantly since then. The rapid evolution of digital technologies has resulted in a variety of tools that let laypeople launch websites. For instance, Forbes contributor Melanie Hazelmayr highlights five ways to launch a website without writing a single line of code.

A final piece of related advice is to avoid the temptation to simply make a sleek new website. The digital footprint alone won’t guarantee new customers, and it certainly won’t guarantee business success. You’ll have to find ways to let potential customers discover the website, too. That’s why one Brisbane SEO company suggests that search engine optimization and is necessary for all business sites.

Concluding advice should revolve around an appropriate balance. Obtaining new customers and building loyalty among existing ones is obviously critical, but it shouldn’t inhibit the business from constantly improving its core product and/or service. What good is a bunch of curiously optimistic customers if you don’t have a valuable product for them? Those who fail to remember that lesson can make a successful website turn against them!

“Innovation needs to be part of your culture. Consumers are transforming faster than we are, and if we don’t catch up, we’re in trouble.” — Ian Schafer

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