The development phase is usually a difficult and seemingly endless step in getting your product to market, but once complete, your product can finally be put into the hands of your customers. Now comes another hurdle... how do we get it there.
The marketing of your product can be broken up into three distinct categories. These vary significantly in their execution, but all have one goal in common – increasing your customer base.
When you pay a platform to display an advertisement promoting the use of your product, this is paid media. This can include streams such as pay-per-click, display ads, retargeting campaigns and paying influences to promote your product. This is a good option to start with but can easily become costly over time, so depending on your budget, you might want to start with this while you're gradually establishing the next two streams, and then gradually shift towards a focus on those.
Setting up a website which explains your product, maintaining and promoting a blog, and managing social media accounts relating to your product are all examples of owned media. Developing this type of media takes time, but once your blog, newsletter and social media followers grow, this is a great and cost effective way to keep in contact with and enhance your customer base.
Earned media typically comes after you've established the previous two streams. Once you have established your products' online presence and are growing your customer base, you should then start attract new customers by social media shares, reviews and reposts. This is another costeffective avenue for promoting your product and brand. However, it requires you to have put in the initial effort and also that you have a pool of happy customers who are happy to promote your product for you.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
In this day in age it's almost essential that you have a website that you used to promote your brand and product online. Websites that are constructed and managed well will ultimately perform better in search engine ranking than others. And if you're ranking lower in the search results, you will be missing out on a lot of potential web traffic. Luckily, the quality of your website can be improved to rank higher, this process is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Search engines will look at a website and rate it based on how it has been constructed. They will look at web standards and best practices and gauge if your website should be looked at favourably in search results. Because of this, it's naturally important to ensure that your website has been developed to meet these standards.
There are many different elements that a search engine will take into account when evaluating the makeup of your website, and these change often. Some of the main ones however are site load times, missing or poor quality content, security and scripting errors. As these often change, my suggestion is to make use of one of the many online SEO site check-up tools. My favourite is seositecheckup.com but there are many others out there. These tools will identify all the elements of your website that can be improved to optimize it for search engines.
Opposed to the internal makeup of your website are the external factors. By external, I mean elements on the internet that are not your website itself. The main ones here are how many references there are on other websites back to your website, and also if you have a strong social media presence. The biggest out of the two is linking to your website. If you have many links, and from reputable websites, then search engines will view your website more favourably. Backlinks are typically gained by other websites referencing content which you've posted on your website – the idea here is that quality content will pay off, as others will be willing to link to it from theirs.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
SEO is great, but its wasted if users come to your website and do not get persuaded to convert to paying (or non-paying) customers. That's where something called Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) comes in. There are many methods out there which are effective at increasing conversion, but these are the ones I find most useful.
Clear Value Proposition
First and foremost, the value adding factor you are proposing to website users must be clear and concise. Your value proposition should be clearly articulated as soon as the user makes it to your website. I would typically put this in the homepage banner. You can then use the rest of the website to reinforce this point.
Accreditation & Endorsement
Other important elements to have on your website are both accreditation and endorsement from reputable sources. This helps your brand and product seem trustworthy and increases the chance that users will be willing to provide you with their personal information to register.
It's often difficult to get the content of your website right. Badly written or confusing content can mean customers switch off and leave your website before long. A good strategy to employ is A/B testing. This is where you configure your website temporarily so that half of the users see one version of the content, and the other half see a different version. You can then gauge, by the number of registrations per content version, which of the two versions is the most effective.
Growth hacking can take many forms; however, the underlying idea is that you employ a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development in order to identify the most efficient and effective ways to grow your business. Growth hacking strategies are often tailored to product and so covering these strategies is out of the scope of this article.
The next article in our Startup Series, Analysing Your MVP Results, will be looking at making sense of all the data that you're collecting and how to use it to improve and evolve your product.