Making a name for your new brand is a challenge even under ideal conditions. Doing it during an economic downturn can seem downright impossible. However, establishing an online presence is crucial to the success of your startup.
Importance of thought leadership
You’ve heard of thought leadership, but it might seem like a nebulous buzzword. What is it and what value does it create for businesses?
Put simply, thought leadership for a brand means having the answers to your customers’ most important questions.
By emerging as the expert in your space, you’re building trust and shaping your customers’ ideas about how to solve their biggest problems. Here’s a hint: it’s with your product or service.
But thought leadership isn’t about selling your product. It’s about truly understanding your customer’s challenges, and providing helpful insights. Make the most of your fledgling business’s shrinking (or non-existent) marketing budget with these five tips.
1. Customer-centric blog
As a startup, your paid media budget is likely humble at best. Luckily, you can find opportunities to reach your customers organically by leaning into thought leadership. Customer-focused blog content is a great place to start.
Think about your target customer. What are their goals? To save money? To look a certain way? You hold the key to at least one of your customer’s goals, and that should be the basis of your content strategy.
A blog with a solid content strategy is essential for both B2B and B2C brands. Here’s an example.
Developments in technology are changing everything from food service to healthcare. Telehealth company Nurx knows this better than anyone. As telehealth became more accessible, this exclusively-online startup quickly emerged to fill an educational need in their customer base.
Nurx’s patients had questions about everything from sexual health to birth control options. They needed reliable, non-judgmental answers from medical experts. The company’s blog provides those answers, pulling organic search traffic into their website by covering topics like STIs and health news.
When it’s time to actually make a birth control purchase, customers are likely to trust the brand that has reliably answered their questions.
2. Search engine optimized content
It’s not enough to have the answers to your customers’ burning questions. You have to get those answers in front of them. A strong content strategy and customer-centric blog won’t get you far without search engine optimization (SEO).
To get your content in front of people, you have to get them to your blog. SEO is one of the most effective ways to get organic (read: free) traffic to your website.
These days, search engine algorithms are incredibly smart. They know how to identify good content. SEO isn’t rocket science, it just takes some research and diligence. Use the language your customer uses. Structure your site logically. Specify a meta description for every blog post.
An example illustrating the value of a little SEO effort comes from Hidden Door Store, seller of – you guessed it – hidden doors. Think secret bookshelves covering in-wall safes. By creating blog posts optimized around search terms that are highly relevant to their customers, they attract purchase-ready users to their website for free.
3. Social media
By now, you know that a social media presence is table stakes for your brand. If your customers can’t find you on social media, they’re going to wonder what’s up.
You don’t have to spend hours every day on social media, but you do need to post consistently and spend time interacting with your community. These channels give you a golden opportunity to humanize your brand and communicate directly with your customers. Respond to comments. Follow industry hashtags and start a conversation. Have fun!
If you find your social media efforts successful, you might choose to experiment by putting some money behind them. Start by simply boosting a post that’s already doing well. You might be surprised by the downstream results, from brand awareness to website traffic to sales.
4. Email newsletter
Now that you’re consistently creating valuable content, another way to get it in front of your audience is an email newsletter. This mid-funnel tactic is crucial to keeping your brand top of mind once prospects are in your pipeline, ready to turn into first-time buyers or repeat customers.
It’s worthwhile to build a list of people who have opted in to receive your newsletter. You’re the owner of this first-party data. When you use other channels, you’re relying on a third party to facilitate your relationship with your customer. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but building first-party prospect data allows you to diversify. If your Instagram account is gone one morning, you still have a lifeline.
One of the most popular newsletter templates is a simple digest of your blog. It takes little effort to put together, as long as you’re consistently posting new articles.
The primary goal of your newsletter is not to sell. Focus on informing and boosting awareness. Experienced brands find opportunities to marry educational content with product-focused sales content. For example, outdoor brand REI’s newsletter combines featured products with stories and tips from their Expert Advice blog.
5. Digital advertising
Finally, paid media is a tried and true way to build your brand online. However, if a good chunk of your advertising budget is still allocated to print and outdoor, a change might do you good.
Small businesses and startups feel more pressure than ever to prove ROI for their activities. Consider shifting dollars to channels where you can test tactics and show a clear connection to your bottom line.
Digital channels like pay-per-click and paid social allow precise targeting rather than the traditional “spray and pray” approach. Social platforms now even auto-optimize advertising campaigns to your goal – for example, landing page visits vs. post engagement.
These capabilities allow you to hyper-focus on getting your brand in front of exactly who you want, exactly when and how they’re most likely to take the action you want. Now that’s marketing in the twenty-first century.
It’s all about content
Establishing your new brand’s online presence can be daunting, but you don’t have to start big. Start with one or two of the tactics discussed above and scale your efforts from there. Find out what works best for your customer base and don’t be afraid to scrap ideas that just aren’t getting the results you need.
By publishing consistent, search-optimized blog content and sharing it with your target audiences, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a thought leader in your industry.