Advice From 14 Experts for Getting Online Traction for Your Startup
Join us at Entrepreneur magazine's Growth Conference, Dec. 15 in Long Beach, Calif. for a day of fresh ideas, business mentoring and networking. Register here for exclusive pricing, available only for a limited time.
As an early-stage startup, building brand awareness is one of the most important parts of your business. To succeed you must get the word out about your brand, cultivate an audience and expand the reach of your company. Generating online traction is a top of priority, second only to getting funded.
However, getting large volumes of website traffic and piquing the interests of PR professionals and journalists is incredibly difficult for an inexperienced entrepreneur. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of tips.
The following are tips from 14 leading PR professionals, journalists and entrepreneurs that will help you capture the attention of your target audience, get media coverage and grow your business.
1. Stay trending. “What is your industry doing that could be considered a trend? Figure it out, and pitch a reporter that trend, with your company leading the story. Reporters prefer trends over one-offs.” Peter Shankman, www.Shankman.com.
2. Build something innovative. “Build something your customers want to be passionate about but don’t know it yet. Passionate customer are by far the best sales people in the World.” John Rampton, www.adogy.com.
3. Branding is everything. “Focus on branding above all. Strong brands naturally attract attention, links and buzz, which are all elements that play into search engine rankings. As such, building a strong brand actually helps improve SEO, helping you get more traction, more quickly.” Jayson DeMers, www.audiencebloom.com.
4. Be a thought leader. “Gambling on traditional PR does not guarantee success. To bloggers and journalists, your standalone product or service is not very newsworthy. Instead, offer your domain expertise. Provide quotes for stories writers are working on to demonstrate your knowledge and critical understanding of the space(s) you operate in. Services such as Help a Reporter Out, Source Sleuth and ProfNet simplify this process, making it easy for you to connect with journalists researching information for upcoming posts. Alternatively, you can follow the reporters that cover your industry and volunteer yourself whenever they send out a call for sources.” Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep
5. Know who your customers are. “One of the keys to growing your startup is really understanding your customer. Where are they? What are their pains? How does your solution solve their problem? What sites do they frequent online? How often will they need to use your product? Does it pass the ‘Toothbrush Test?’
You'll want to create an affinity grid of their interests, so that you can find more them. You can use Facebook graph search to really understand your ideal customers interests.
Next, I'd suggest trying to build in growth into your product. If you can get your customers to help you get new customers, then that's a huge win. Incentivize your customers to help you get new customers. If you figure that out, you're in for a ride.” Travis Wright traviswright.com
6. Know when to move on. “Too many entrepreneurs don’t know when to cut bait and go on to the next lead. It is easy to say, ‘I have had eight great meetings with this $15B a year company’ and not realize that you have spent $2,000 getting two people to those meetings each time, and that means you have spent $16,000 for a sale that will only make you $10,000, but it is also realizing when you are being pumped for information so that the company can build rather than buy.” Sarah Austin, pop17.com
7. Invest in video. "If there's one thing every startup should invest in, it should be a short, aesthetically pleasing video that explains exactly how its product works. As a journalist covering startups, I guarantee no amount of selling a concept over the phone is as effective as a well-produced video that clearly communicates the benefit of the app or software. If there's a good video, I almost always embed it in my article. Bonus points if it's funny." Omar Akhtar, senior editor, www.thehubcomms.com
8. Strive to be the best. “Be the smartest person in the room, or at least your space. If you aren’t, change space or get smarter.
There are few people with my background in SEO. I proved that awhile back by defeating all the other SEO’s in a challenge to own the top hit for ‘Greatest Living American.’ I spend a lot of time talking to the guys at Google, and because I talk to more than one group I often know more than they do about how things work, as opposed to who they are supposed to work. About 25 percent of my week is spent learning more about the current trends through either experimentation or interaction with others in the space. There is no doubt I am in the top 1 percent of the field. My customers value that, and I can charge a premium for that, but it also means they are proud to tell others how much I have moved the needle. They talk fondly because they are proud to be working with someone they trust, and who is well known.
I think that anyone can specialize to be in the top 5 percent of their niche. If you can’t, you need to change your niche slightly, so you can be. That might mean you are the number one expert in CRM for Naval Ship Yards, or the number two guru in Quantum Touch Remote Holistic Healing, but either of those is better than number 874 in Email Hosting Business Development. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with making a living being number 800. But your mom won’t brag you up at parties, and it won’t win over customers.” Brandon Wirtz, blackwaterops.com
9. Come prepared. “Reporters are pressed for time, so if you can pitch them an angle they can immediately use (at the least) and the frame of the story (even better) — or even a rough post (best) that ghosts their voice (super fantastic) — you might have a new best friend.” — Mary C. Long, chief ghost at Digital Media Ghost
10. Never cut corners. “Running a lean organization does not mean cutting corners on the basic building blocks of marketing. Growth marketing starts with a clear vision of why you exist, and an understanding of who you serve. Build a narrative or company story that you can clearly and consistently communicate to your customers. This is the foundation of good content marketing. And, really have a conversation with your customers. Find out where they get their information, and go there to engage with them, whether its Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or even a local MeetUp.
There are so many channels through which a business can use to broadcast a message. That is not the objective. Choose carefully what you say, when and to whom.” — LA Lassek, twitter.com/LA
11. Appeal to a wide audience. "If you want traction you should know what news organizations are talking about and how you can ride that wave to get mentioned. Never come to a reporter pitching a story that is only about you or your company. It sounds simple but too many startup founders do it. Reporters usually don’t have time to learn about the company. Before you pitch, do you know what makes a newsworthy story for reporters at the publication? Start with that question. Be a student of the news in general. Take a hard, in-depth, exhaustive look at the stories in that publication as well as others. What trends or events are they covering? Can you craft a pitch to fit into what they cover? The most you can hope for usually is a mention in an article, maybe a quote. If the reporter wants to do more than that, he or she will." John Boitnott, http://jboitnott.com
12. Understand your disruption and build influencers. "Think for a moment about all the successful campaigns you can remember over the past few years, and a couple things become glaringly obvious through them all. They speak to their disruption and they rely heavily on influencers, propelling the exposure of the campaign through social media and personal connections. So strong is the power of influencers today that most traditional sales funnels have been adjusted to include the 'influencer' as equal in value as the 'sale.' You understand why your company or product is awesome and you understand the disruption that led you to creating your company or product to begin with. Don't lose that focus when it comes to building your online exposure. Work to create influencers and brand evangelists, so they can help you succeed when the time is right.” Brent Csutoras, kairaymedia.com
13. Utilize customers for voice multiplication. “You may not have a following socially, but when you combine all of your customers’ reaches, the depth can be impressive. Focus on an extremely well-tuned customer experience to wow them, on top of providing them something so impressive they can’t help but want to impress their friends with it. We’re not talking “look at my new Rolex” impress, we’re talking “I know they’ll love this and I want to tell them about it first” impressing of friends. That excellent user experience will come from actual usability testing, not guesswork, hunches or first ideas. The part about being impressive, well, that comes down to how well you position yourself, and the actual value your site, service, product or app provides. If it’s new and fresh, it’ll kill.” Duane Forrester, Bing.com
14. Seek advice from Reddit’s community. I recommend entrepreneurs look at Reddit.com and their AMA (Ask Me Anything) section and think about possibly answering questions from the community. There are also more specific communities on Reddit such as Entrepreneurs and Business.” Drew Hendricks, DrewAHendricks.com
Getting solid media coverage for a young business can be extraordinarily difficult, but if you focus on these various aspects of your online presence, you can increase the likelihood that you will receive quality media coverage and ultimately expand your brand awareness and grow your fan base.
gaining social media exposure