One of my favorite marketing blog posts was written in April 2009 by HubSpot co-founder Dharmesh Shah. He called it Startup Marketing: Tactical Tips From The Trenches.
“If I were starting a company today,” Dharmesh wrote, “here’s what I would do in the first ten days.”
In that same spirit, here’s a rough outline of steps I’d recommend for businesses just getting started. I hope someone who’s starting a business finds it useful. Credit where credit is due, some of these suggestions are pretty similar to what Dharmesh wrote nearly four years ago.
How to start marketing your new business
1. Pick a name. Choose one that’s simple, short, and for which the URL (the web address) is available. Shoot for .com. Other top-level domains are becoming acceptable, particularly .tv, .ly and .me but they can be more expensive and may not available through leading registrars.
2. Purchase your URL. Buy from GoDaddy, or any other reputable supplier of domain names. Set up your domain email: email@example.com. I recommend GoDaddy because they’re reasonable and provide excellent support. There are other fine providers, too. But if you have to shop around, and get recommendations, you’re wasting time.
3. Get a logo. I recommend using a designer and doing it right from the start —if you can afford it. If funds are tight, you can get away with using crowdSPRING, 99Designs or Fiverr to get an inexpensive logo that will tide you over for your first year. Or you can do it yourself if you have the skills. Remember, this is your first year. You don’t need a logo to last forever.
Do yourself a favor and make it simple. Very simple. Elegant, type-only logos are fine for starters. Make sure you get a variety of versions of the basic design—black, white and color—as vector files (.eps) and transparent .png files. Don’t use gradients. Simple is strong. Make sure it looks good when it is very small as well as very large.
4. Put up a simple website. In the last couple of years, pre-made templates (called “themes”), powered by the WordPress content management system, have come a long, long way. Today you can purchase a beautiful, professional looking theme, that works on mobile devices as well as desktops, and is easy to set up and host through GoDaddy and other services. All you have to do is add content – words and images. Of course, that takes time, but the cost is ridiculously low. And you need just a few pages to start.
Many WordPress options are free, and you can get a free hosted WordPress site at WordPress.com. If you go with WordPress.com, forward the address they give you to your own domain name, so your web address is “www.YOUR-URL.com” rather than “www.YOUR-URL.wordpress.com”.
If you want or need professional help, find a WordPress specialist. (I know a great one if you need a recommendation.) There are options besides WordPress, but it’s hard to find one that’s as simple and inexpensive.
5. Set up social media accounts. Claim your company name on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest and any other social network that’s important in your industry. (You don’t want someone else to claim it!) Add your profile, even if you don’t plan to be active, and leave a note like, “I’m not active on Twitter at this point, but would love to hear from you at (your website.) (Hat tip to the great Andy Crestodina and his SpinSucks blog post.
6. Create an email list. First, always get permission to email people. (Marketers call this process “opt-in”.) Second, WordPress comes with easy-to-use tools for building your list through your website. Third, find creative and appropriate ways to add to your list. For instance, put a signup sheet by the register, next to a laminated sample of an actual email newsletter containing a special offer. Ask people in person, including former or current customers, if you can add them.
7. Set up an email marketing account at Mail Chimp, a marketing email/newsletter provider. The basic plan is free. It’s a great service that lets you make and send professional looking marketing emails and newsletters. You can design them practically any way you want. Plus, it has a plugin for WordPress that lets people sign up on your WordPress website for your email campaign or newsletter.
8. Start your blog. Yes, be a blogger. One simple reason: It’s a great way to develop “content” – stuff to fill up your website, so that Google will recognize and list you in search results.
Because you chose a WordPress theme, the blog is already integrated into your existing website. At no charge. It will be automatically set up in a form that helps Google find you.
As Dharmesh wrote, your first blog post can be something like: “How (Your Company Name) Got This Far, And Where We Want To Go.” Blogs let you show off your knowledge and passion at the same time.
10. Set up Google Alerts. Set up alerts for your name, your company’s name, and the names of your competitors and other influential companies and people in your business. Google Alerts will send you an email when these names get mentioned on the web, so you’ll know when people are talking about you and your competitors.
11. If you have a local business, go to GetListed.org. Enter your information and fill out all the relevant listings, for sites like Google, Bing, Yelp, Yahoo, and several others. This is important for every business with a physical storefront.
Maybe you’re not strictly a local business. If there are specialty websites that offer reviews for your industry, make sure you “claim” your listing. This may include trade associations, or sites like TripAdvisor.com. Search Google for your established competitors and you may find sites where you should be listed.
12. Join your local networking organizations. If your business is local, this is a huge step. Even if you’re not doing business locally, you never know what kind of great folks you’ll meet what relationships will be valuable as you go forward. Networking takes time, but it’s time well spent.
13. Get business cards printed. There are many inexpensive options, including local printers, your nearby Office Depot, Staples, OfficeMax, VistaPrint.com and the FedEx store. For just a little more that VistaPrint, you might look at Inkd.com. I’ve never used them, but they sure look sharp, don’t they? Use your fancy logo from point 3.
14. Write a simple press release. Use this guide from Lunareclipse.net. Your objective is not to provide news outlets with an article they can run. It’s to introduce your new business to local publications, or trade publications, and their writers who specialize in your industry.
So make a list of all the publications, broadcast outlets or websites that make sense for your business.
Find out on the web or by a phone call to each media outlet the name of the best person to whom you should address the release. Then send them a nice personal email and introduce yourself as the owner of a new business. Include your release as a word processing document. Provide links to photographs or videos, if you have any.
You can also distribute your press release on a number of free PR websites. Here are a few that I have used, there are many more.
15. Install analytics on your website. WordPress has its own analytics package, but you really should add Google Analytics for WordPress. It’s a free “plugin,” meaning you can add it with a few clicks, and it gives you lots of interesting information about where your traffic is coming from, which of your pages is most popular, which links people click, how long they visit, how many pages they visit, and so on.
16. Develop compelling strategic messages. This may be the most important point of all. Work on your company story, your positioning statement, your value proposition and your key benefits. I call these your Marketing Message Starter Kit (see details).
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Now… I bet there’s something you would you add or change. What is it?