What are the top priorities for startups this year? According to First Round Capital, the top three priorities are great hires, revenue growth and customer acquisition. Since two of the top three are related to growth, here are several effective paths startups can follow to exceed their targets in 2016.
1. Sales Automation
Sales automation is a new concept that is rapidly growing. The idea is that companies can create prospect lists quickly using tools such as Datanyze, ToutApp or LinkedIn to find their ideal customers or clients and put those prospects into tools that will send out emails based on a sequence.
An example of a sequence might be seven emails broken down by automated email follow-ups every two business days or so. If you’re looking to reach prospects at scale, sales automation might be one way to do it. Just keep in mind that coming off as too automated or pushy will send your emails straight to your recipient's spam folder.
If you’re unsure of how to send solid sales emails that will actually get people to respond, here are 101 sales email templates you can use to close more deals.
2. New advertising opportunities
When it comes to marketing, keep this in mind: Always go to where your target audience is hanging out. Facebook and Google continue to be the giants of advertising, but what other opportunities are available? Consider:
Podcast advertising. Podcasts are continuing to grow in popularity, especially since the explosion of Serial (a podcast from the creators of This American Life) last year. In fact, the percentage of Americans who have listened to a podcast in the last month has nearly doubled since 2008 -- from 9 percent to 17 percent as of January 2015. Think about how the people listening to today's podcasts are more technology-savvy and highly engaged content consumers. If you can get your marketing product in front of a business audience like that, it might just perform well.
YouTube advertising. YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world and it continues to grow. It’s one of the few web properties that has over 1 billion monthly active users. Because YouTube is owned by Google, you have a plethora of options to use for narrowing your targeting to find the right consumers. As video's popularity grows, so will YouTube ads. Get in while you can, while the costs are still relatively cheap.
Gmail advertising. Google recently just brought back Gmail advertising to its advertising platform, and it has great potential. Imagine being able to target the same people who are opening emails from your competitors or popular blogs. The possibilities for paid content distribution and even direct sales are endless. This is another one of those “get in while you can” moments -- except that this time it’s “get in now because it’s still early!”
- Creating a podcast. You read about the growth of podcasting above. In addition to advertising on podcasting, what about creating a media asset for yourself? Podcasting is just another way to build an audience of loyal followers, and since you own the asset, you can do whatever you want with it. Add your podcast feed to iTunes, Soundcloud, Google Play and more to get started.
- Being interviewed. Find those podcasts where your target audience is hanging out and simply reach out to see if any of them would be open to interviewing you. I’ve been asked many times directly on my podcast, and I’ve often accepted guests who directly reached out to me.
4. App automation
How many software tools do you use? Here's a hypothetical list of what you might have:
- E-mail service provider (like MailChimp)
- Chat program (like Slack)
- Analytics tool (like Google Analytics)
- E-signature tool (like HelloSign)
- CRM (like Salesforce)
- Spreadsheet tool (like Google Spreadsheets)
- Content management system (like WordPress)
How nice would it be if all these tools could connect with one other to get your most tedious work done automatically? Here’s an example of how an app automation sequence workflow might look:
- A prospect fills out a lead form on your website.
- The lead automatically populates in your CRM for your sales team.
- At the same time, a message is pushed out to your sales chat room to notify the sales team that a new lead has just come in.
- The prospect is also added to your email service provider.
This is just a simple sequence you can create by hooking apps together. Take a second to think about the processes that you’d like to automate in your business and then imagine the possibilities. I hope you find this exciting.
But the question now is, “How do I do this?”
Simple. There’s a great tool called Zapier that allows you to connect more than 500 apps. Give it a try, and let me know what you think.
As technology continues to improve, more growth opportunities will sprout up. The key is taking advantage of them while they’re still new so that you’ll have an edge on your competition.
One more thing: Many people try to do too many things at once. If you liked any of the ideas above, just choose one that you think will have the biggest impact and focus on that. Trying to spread yourself too thin (especially when you’re starting out) can lead to disaster.