A guide for start-ups and small businesses
By Ciaran Deering, Head of Online, The Grove Media
It’s often said that necessity is the mother invention, and the past year has certainly been testament to this. With significant numbers of people moving out of full time work, and others on furlough considering their options, there has been a real boost to entrepreneurial start-ups.
Nearly half a million new businesses were registered in the UK last year, according to data from Companies House, and in the four weeks to mid-December 2020, there was a 30% year-on-year increase in UK business incorporations reported by the Financial Times.
Many of these businesses will rightly be thinking about their launch advertising. And with a wealth of affordable digital platforms at their disposal, the opportunities for both brand-building and customer acquisition are great. But, the potential for getting it wrong and wasting valuable budget is equally high.
So for those start-ups taking their first steps to market their new ventures, here are some key things to focus on – even before you start committing any money to advertising.
It’s critically important to get the fundamentals right at the outset. It’s surprising how often business rush to market without fully establishing the basics. Before you think about advertising, you must sort out your online infrastructure. Set up a Google My Business account as it makes your business easier for people to locate and contact you – if you have a physical business, you will appear on Google Maps. Ensure you set up Google analytics correctly for your website. Create the right goals as you will use these to track success through Google advertising.
Set up a Facebook Business Manager Account. This is the home for your business on Facebook and/or Instagram and will include your page, your tracking pixels and your audience data. Get a Facebook Pixel in place which will allow you to monitor user behaviour and track success with ads. Also, take time to research the right customer relationship management (CRM) system for your business.
Once you have the platforms in place, and you are happy with your brand identity and sales story – seek advice from a specialist marketing agency if not – you are ready to start your advertising journey.
First, start with your budget. Work out a budget that gives you enough to test & learn. Don’t try to do too much or spread your budget too thinly. Then focus on your strategy. Most businesses start with online advertising as it’s measurable, affordable, highly targeted, and you can test and learn at low cost to incrementally grow your business.
Define your KPIs – you have to be clear about your goals at the outset. Think about what success will look like, eg how many people you will need visiting your website to convert to sales, data capture, or footfall. Once you’ve established cost per clicks (CPCs) from your advertising this will help you set budgets against KPIs.
Make yourself visible on search. Getting your SEO right will help ensure that your site structure is in order – starting a business on a weak site structure is like building a house on weak foundations. Ask your web developers what they are doing to ensure SEO is addressed properly.
You may want to look at paid search. Paid search targeting of brand keywords is often needed if your organic or SEO results are weak. Test paid search around product and service keywords. If you’re doing this in-house make sure to do the Google Ads Search Fundamentals course or seek help from a media agency.
Establish a social media strategy to support your advertising. Regular social content is likely to be central to your comms strategy and helps drive customer engagement. Test paid social ads, with different creative messaging, to extend your content’s reach to wider audiences.
If you are collecting your customer data, put this to work in your online advertising. You can create lookalike audiences from you data and extend your advertising to people who fit a similar profile to your existing customers. You can also retarget customers who’ve visited your site but not purchased.
If you follow all these steps, you will be well on your way to having a sustainable, growth-driving approach to advertising. And as your business grows, you can increase your budget and branch out into other areas of digital media options such as radio, TV & out of home advertising. With the development of ‘addressable media’ technology, these broader reach platforms are now more affordable for small businesses.