Content Marketing Strategy For Small Businesses

content marketing strategy

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Small businesses have been increasingly aware of and using content marketing.  Entrepreneurs have been trying content development or hiring people to write content for their websites, blogs, social media posts, newsletters, emails, and printed marketing materials.

However, simply writing content for an audience to inform them about your product or service will not, in most likelihood, result in the engagement and sales generation you were expecting.  You need clear objectives and well-defined ways of achieving these objectives.  You need a content strategy.

What is content

Content is the idea, topic, theme, or message conveyed through all media you use to communicate with your target audience.  It includes your websites, blogs, social media posts, newsletters, emails, printed marketing materials, images, infographics, podcasts, videos, webinars, publication articles, press releases, advertising in traditional and non-traditional media, and other communication media you use to reach out to your market.

What is content marketing

Content marketing is a way of creating and delivering in a consistent manner useful, relevant, and engaging content (see definition above) to a target audience or market.

Content should be useful to its audience.  If your audience consists of entrepreneurs or small business owners (like you), they would want to get hold of useful information about how to start, operate, and expand their business; how to solve a specific business or marketing problem; or, how to create a content marketing strategy.  The information has to be relevant to their needs, problems, and pain points. The content has to be engaging, may not be necessarily fun to read at times, but has to strike a direct connection with what preoccupies the thought of your audience.

What is content marketing strategy

Crafting a content marketing strategy is adding to your content marketing efforts a goal (or goals like boosting sales, increasing audience engagement, or establishing brand presence), a plan of action (what contents to discuss, in what form to present it, or what media to use to distribute it), a time frame (how frequent and when to deliver the content), and a performance measurement standard (quantify your goals or set milestones to be achieved within a certain period of time).

A content strategy imbues your content marketing with purpose, direction, and basis for measuring and evaluating results.

Why is content marketing strategy important

Without a content strategy, your content marketing efforts will fail to deliver the results you want. You will not have a starting point, you will not have clear courses of action, and you will achieve nothing significant or simply just get lost along the way.  Your efforts will be almost a total waste.

How to develop a content marketing strategy

There are several ways of developing a content marketing strategy.  Let us just focus on a simple one which every entrepreneur can easily understand and implement.

  • Know your target audience. All content starts with your audience – who and where they are, their values, interests, and preferences, including their online habits.
  • Know their needs, problems, and pain points. These are the concerns you have to address for your content to become useful and relevant to your audience.
  • Determine what value you can offer. What experience and expertise do you have from which you can develop content that can be of value to your audience?
  • Develop your content marketing strategy.
  1. Set your objectives. Your objectives have to be specific, measurable, and time-bound.  You may consider boosting sales by 20% in 2018 or increasing website traffic by 30% within the first half of 2018.
  2. Select what topics you want to discuss. You may be an expert in organic and healthy food, natural beauty products, health and fitness, clean energy, or in any other topic about which you can confidently share your expertise.  Remember:  your audience does not take care about your product or service; they repulse a sales pitch. Your audience would value your content if these answer specific questions they have.  If you become an authoritative source on topics of interest to them, you gradually develop a relationship with and build a loyal audience.  Over time, this morphs into a beneficial and profitable relationship.
  3. Determine appropriate forms of presenting your content. You can use written materials, infographics, e-books, slides, videos, podcasts, webinars, or printed collaterals.
  4. Select cost-effective media to deliver your content. You can deliver your message through your website, blog, social media, email campaign, online and offline ads, and other media.
  5. Create a content calendar. You need to put your content topics, selected forms, media, and distribution schedule into one file to make sure you cover, coordinate, and monitor everything.
  6. Set your metrics. You have to periodically monitor what really matters like website traffic, engagement, and sales (new and repeat sales).
  7. Analyze and evaluate results; iterate for improved performance. If sales, for example, are not being generated as desired, check your engagement and traffic data. See what you can do to improve these data, implement tactical improvements, and iterate. Good results require time, persistence, new skills, and deeper knowledge of your target audience.  Back to #1 above.

Desired results from content marketing cannot be achieved within a short period of time.  You have to keep working at it (like I do until now).  Being consistent and persevering at what you do is very important.  Learning best practices, keeping abreast with the latest trends (those proven effective only; avoid the hype), and seeking professional advice about content marketing will help improve results.

 

 

Marketing Strategy and Marketing Plan: What’s the Difference?

marketing strategy marketing plan

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A simple distinction: a marketing strategy is what you want to do to achieve your marketing objectives while a marketing plan is how you want to do it.  The marketing strategy identifies the various market-centric pathways or options you want to follow to achieve your marketing objectives. It is the big picture of your company’s marketing functions.  The marketing plan lays out the different tactical plans you will execute to propel your marketing strategy. It provides the details of the big picture.

Let us briefly explain the salient points of each of these marketing studies.

Marketing strategy

You start by stating specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound marketing objectives.  The marketing objectives are derived from your company’s goals like sustaining competitive advantage for long-term profitability and growth.

Market research

You conduct market research to gather important data about your industry and target market

  • Target market

You define who will consume or use your product (or service).  You come up with demographic and psychographic data.  Demographic data are statistical data related to a selected group which include the gender, age, location, education, income, and other personal data. Psychographic data pertain to general or common attitude, values, interests, personality, and other factors that impact the buying decision process for your product.

  • Market segmentation

As your target market might be too huge or diverse to economically or profitably cover, you may want to focus on a particular niche or segment which you can effectively and efficiently serve.

  • Market segment data

You compile statistics about your selected market segment such as size and growth trend (past and projected), the external environment that impacts the industry, opportunities, and threats.

Competitive analysis

As mentioned in our recent article, this involves knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your top current and potential competitors.  Knowing these will enable you to explore ways of neutralizing their strengths and taking advantage of their weaknesses.

Competitive rivalry

You may want to determine how competitive the industry or market you will be entering.  You should consider the number and strength of potential buyers and suppliers, the presence of substitute products, ease or difficulty of market entry, and other factors affecting the level of competition.  The degree of competitive rivalry directly affects the profitability of your market.

Competitive advantage

As discussed in a recent blog, it is crucial to the success of your business how you will develop comparative advantage (cost-wise) and/or differential advantage (differentiation-wise).  Without a competitive advantage, you cannot expect your business to be above the competition. You manifest your competitive advantage in your value proposition.

Positioning

How do you want your target market to perceive your product and company?  Do you want them to see your product as having a high quality, or as being the lowest priced in the market, or your company as having the best customer support?  Or you simply want to convey that your product and company offer superior value to its customers.

Brand

To be clear and effective in reaching out to your target market, you create your brand.  Your brand represents everything about your product and company.  You develop your brand identity, story, positioning, and messaging.  Your brand delivers your value proposition to your target market. Building a strong brand not only results in a successful marketing but in the long term adds immense value to your company.

Marketing plan

Based on your marketing objectives, evaluation of your target market segment, competition, your value proposition, your market positioning, and branding, you decide on the following courses of action:

Product strategy

You develop a product that best fits the needs of your target market.  It should effectively deliver solutions to their problems or eliminate their pain points.

Pricing strategy

This is important, particularly in your launching stage.  Either you use low pricing to penetrate a competitive market and establish a foothold, or maximize profit if you have a strong product differential advantage or you operate in a low-competition market.

Promotions strategy – online or offline

You may choose to use either online or offline promotions strategy.  Your decision will be based on cost-effectiveness in reaching out to your target market.

Distribution strategy – online or offline

You decide on the best option of delivering your products to your target market.  Would your customers prefer ordering, paying, and receiving your product via online transactions or would they prefer going to a brick-and-mortar store to physically examine, try, and evaluate your product?

Implementation plan

  • Tasks

These are key tactical activities that have to be identified and implemented to put into motion the various marketing strategies on a day-to-day basis.

  • KPIs

You have to list your targets and measures for each of the tasks you have outlined.  These are your performance standards against which you will measure or assess results at the end of each evaluation period – monthly, quarterly, and annually.

  • Accountability

You identify who will be responsible for delivering the necessary results.

  • Budget

Prepare a marketing budget that will adequately cover the various marketing activities required in your marketing plan. This will be the basis for determining the ROIs of your marketing efforts.

  • Timetable

Enumerate milestones that should be achieved along a specific timeline.

This discussion is just going through briefly the various elements of a marketing strategy and a marketing plan to show how each of these marketing studies relates to each other. It is important to note that one cannot exist without the other.

For practical purposes, some entrepreneurs look at both studies as one and the same. Some marketing professionals would rather integrate these studies and call them a strategic marketing plan.

In whatever manner you look at these, what is important is you have clear marketing objectives, define your options and rationale in reaching these objectives, and identify how and when you will achieve these.  You may seek expert advice in preparing your marketing studies.

How Much Do Businesses Spend on Digital Marketing?

digital marketing budget

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Businesses are in the process of preparing or finalizing their budget for 2018.  Given the popularity of digital marketing, many businesses are pondering how much of their total marketing budget should be allocated to digital marketing.  Furthermore, how much of the total digital marketing budget should be allotted to social media, email, online ads, content marketing, and other online channels.

Let us look at how businesses typically apportion their marketing budget:

The total marketing budget

Based on studies compiled by WebStrategies, total marketing budgets are 7% to 12% of total revenues.

As these are percentages of total revenues, the absolute figures can vary widely among industries and among companies within the same industry.

Bright Local published these data:

The digital marketing budget

In the same article by WebStrategies, it is mentioned that in 2018 the average firm is expected to allocate 41% of their budget to online.

According to Bizness Apps companies are shifting more and more money to digital because of it’s perceived R.O.I., and the ability to spend less for more return.

Almost all businesses believe that digital marketing is cost-effective and can deliver a relatively higher ROI.  Equally important is the fact that results of digital marketing efforts can be measured in real time. As digital marketing is data-driven, marketers can establish metrics that can show them how effective their efforts are based on data used or considered for the campaign.

Bizness Apps mentioned further that the average SMB spends $400/month on marketing… SMBs spend on average 46% of their marketing budget on digital marketing… Social, mobile, email and search marketing represent the lion’s share of the digital marketing budget… Total marketing budgets are between 4% and 12% of total revenue… Smaller companies spend more on marketing as a percentage of their total revenue… B2Cs and online companies spend more on marketing compared to B2Bs.

While an average SMB spends $400/month on marketing, we should also consider the fact that many startups and solo entrepreneurs (like me) are bootstrapping. They usually use free online tools and approaches to promote their businesses.

If SMBs spend 46% of their marketing budget on digital marketing, it can be interpreted that they spend about $185/month on social, mobile, email, and search marketing. Startups or solo entrepreneurs may, however, choose to spend the bulk (say 80%) or even the whole of their marketing budget on digital marketing knowing that it delivers higher ROI and its results can be measured in real time.

How will the digital marketing budget change

WebStrategies stated further that budget for online marketing is expected to grow to 45% in 2020… Budget for social media advertising will represent 25% of total online spending in 2018… Digital marketing spend is growing at 11% CAGR between 2016 and 2021… Businesses who rely more heavily on the internet to generate sales (e.g. an ecommerce business), invest a greater percentage of their marketing budget towards digital.

Without a doubt, total spend on digital marketing will continue to grow.

Total digital marketing budget will only vary from industry to industry and from business to business on the budget amount or on the ratio of budget-to-revenue.  Allocation per online activity will also vary depending not only on the industry and business type but also on the market competitive situation.

Startups and small businesses are most likely looking at these from a more disadvantaged position compared to established and big businesses.  But SMBs can always be agile, more creative, and can always seek professional help in promoting their businesses online even on a limited budget.

Crucial Elements of a Successful Marketing Strategy

marketing strategy

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Marketing strategy is your systematic, organized, and purposeful set of activities intended to achieve your marketing objectives in relation to your overall business goals.  Marketing strategy empowers you to boost sales, increase market share, tap new markets, and build a strong brand as well as other specific marketing objectives you want to attain.

A marketing strategy has many elements.  In this article, I would like to highlight if only briefly the two elements I consider crucial in bringing about strategic marketing success, namely:  competitive analysis and competitive advantage.

Competitive analysis

Competitive analysis, simply defined, is identifying and evaluating the impact of your top current and potential competitors’ weaknesses and strengths within your market.  These weaknesses and strengths can be found in their resources, systems and processes, marketing and sales, and finance.

  • Resources

Resources essentially include human resources particularly skills availability and quality, technology usage, and usable assets.

  • Systems and processes

Systems and processes that are in place and how these help increase efficiency and productivity.

  • Marketing and sales

Marketing strategies, tactical development of the marketing mix, and sales pipeline management.

  • Finance

Soundness of financial management and availability of funding for current operations and potential expansion.

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors enable you to adopt a marketing strategy that can neutralize their strengths and take advantage of their weaknesses.

Competitive advantage

Competitive advantage is the edge you have versus your competitors in terms of cost (comparative advantage ) and differentiation (differential advantage).  It puts you notches above the competition and drives the profitability of your company.

Having sustainable competitive advantages will enable you to craft a marketing strategy that will give you market leadership and at the same time improve your profit margin and operating income.

Competitive advantages can be created along your company’s value chain – the series of value-generating activities. In each of these primary activities, you can create value greater than the cost resulting in a profit margin for the company.

Using Michael Porter’s generic value chain, these primary activities are the following:

  • Inbound logistics

Receiving, warehousing, and inventory management of raw materials for production.

  • Operations

Converting the raw materials into finished product or service.

  • Outbound logistics

Warehousing and delivering the finished product to the end users.

  • Marketing and sales

Getting your target market or potential customers to purchase your product or service.

  • Service

After-sales service and support for good customer experience.

Four support activities contribute to the efficiency of the above primary activities.  The support activities are the company infrastructure, human resource management, technology development, and procurement.

Your effectiveness and efficiency in performing these activities will result in superior value for customers and a bigger profit for your company.

This short article is not an attempt to expertly discuss all facets and details of a competitive analysis and competitive advantage.  This is just a simple discussion of the major points to consider when a startup or small business tries to develop a marketing strategy that is practical, that can work, and can give the entrepreneur a good chance of marketing success.

What else can we add here?

Is Email Really The Most Effective Online Marketing And Sales Tool?

email marketing online marketing

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The answer is a big YES.  Statistics have proven this overwhelmingly. Based also on my own experience, I would say yes.  Email is the most effective marketing and sales tool of an online or digital marketer.

All traffic generated by your website, blogs, social media posts, online ads, and even offline marketing efforts would be eventually responded to and managed using emails. Leads move through your sales funnel as triggered by a series of emails you send to your clients until the sales are closed and the customers become your brand advocates.

Let us consider the following selected statistics from the compilation done by Hubspot that prove the effectiveness of email marketing:

  • Three-quarters of companies agree that email offers “excellent” to “good” ROI. (Econsultancy, 2016)

Being a targeted, personalized, and one-on-one piece of communication, your email can systematically guide your customer into making a favorable decision on your offer.  This is a high-quality presentation to a qualified prospect leading to more sales at a lower cost.

  • Email use worldwide will top 3 billion users by 2020. (The Radicati Group, 2016)

This is a whopping figure that most social media platforms might not be able to equal. Online marketers definitely consider email as the most prevalent and effective way of communicating in a personalized way with their customers now and in the near future.

  • 86% of consumers would like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with at least monthly, and 15% would like to get them daily. (Statista, 2015)

This is easily understandable in the context that your email content is of good quality – useful, relevant, and engaging.  These emails are the regular doses of enriching information, insider news, and exclusive updates for your loyal customers and brand champions.   

  • 86% of professionals prefer to use email when communicating for business purposes. (HubSpot, 2017)

This is particularly pronounced in B2B marketing. Information and ideas are formally put down in writing which can be reviewed and evaluated going toward a decision or course of action.

  • Segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue. (The Direct Marketing Association, 2015)

This is expected to happen.  The clearer we are as to who our target customers are and how we communicate with them, the greater the chance of boosting our revenue.

  • Emails that included the first name of the recipient in their subject line had higher click-through rates than emails that did not. (HubSpot, 2014)

We know this, we experience this, and we love it.  When someone mentions our first name in communicating with us, the communication becomes more personal and relatable, eliminating the stiffness of formality.

  • Two-thirds of emails are read on either smartphones or tablets. (Marketing Land, 2015)

Well, we do this. The use of smartphones and tablets has enabled us to be always in touch and in the know amidst our on-the-go busy life. This becomes even more mandatory for task-oriented people.

There are more statistics available online that highlight the positive impact of emails in our marketing campaigns.

As mentioned by Aashish Sharma in Business 2 Community, email marketing creates a strong relationship with your customers and prospects. It is about building real links with people who want to hear from you.

I strongly believe in the power of email marketing as proven by statistics and by its cost-effective results in my marketing campaigns. Email marketing delivers.

Market Study: Improving the Chances of Startup Success

market study market research

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In a recent article, I mentioned that one of the top reasons for startup failure is creating a product or service that nobody needs.  A lot of problems and significant costs could have been avoided if startups had conducted a market study prior to launching their business.

A market study is a research and analysis of your target market.  This is an important part of your marketing strategy. You can come up with the marketing strategy and implementation plan only after you know who and what you are dealing with.

The market study attempts to gather all relevant data in order to investigate and analyze all aspects of your target market. It should answer almost everything you do not know about your market.

It all starts with a clear profile of your target market and what specific needs or problems of this market you are trying to address.

A typical market study covers the following major fields:

Target market

There are usually two categories of data that you have to know: demographics and psychographics.

Demographic data are statistical data related to the population in general or to a selected group in particular. These include gender, age, civil status, location, income, and other data commonly gathered in a census or survey.

Psychographic data pertain to the general or common attitudes, values, interests, and personality of a selected group of people including how they perceive a particular product/service/brand in relation to their needs/problems, what factors influence their decision to buy or not a product/service, why they prefer a particular product/service/brand, or what makes them brand advocates.

Pyschographics enable us to understand what beliefs and values drive the purchasing behavior of our customers.

You basically deal with two market sectors:  B2C and B2B markets.

In B2C, you deal with the consumers.  Consumers buy your goods/services for their personal use.

In B2B, you transact with industrial or institutional clients.  They purchase goods/services to be used in producing other goods/services or in running their business.

The B2C and B2B markets differ in their demographic and psychographic data.

In collecting these data, you use two research methods:  primary research and secondary research.

Primary research is getting the information directly from your potential customers by way of surveys, focus group interviews, and other direct methods.

Secondary research is gathering the information such as statistics, studies, or reports published online and offline by private and public organizations.

Market metrics

Market size

  • Total market

You gather the total current and potential number or value of product/service used by the overall market.

  • Target market segments

You collect total current and potential number or value of product/service consumed by the market segment(s) you are targeting.

  • Product/Service sales

If you can access appropriate sources, determine the unit/value volume of current and potential sales of the product/service you intend to offer or, if none exists yet, those of substitute products/services currently available in the market.

Market growth

These figures cover both historical and projected growth of the total market, market segments, and product/service sales.

Competitors

Another important part of market research is getting critical information about your major competitors.  You have to know the features of their product/service and how these address the needs, problems, or pain points of the target market.  You also have to know how they market their product/service – how they position their brand, their pricing, promotions, and distribution strategies – and how they generate sales.  It is also helpful to know the feedback of their customers.

Most important is knowing their competitive advantages.  With all these information, you can come up with an assessment of their respective strengths and weaknesses.  Your strategy will include how to neutralize their strengths and how to take advantage of their weaknesses.

 

Industry situation

Another part of market research is to determine how the industry where your business belongs are affected by political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental developments.  These developments would have an impact on the current and future situation of your industry and ultimately your business.

Market trends

Gather news, discussion points, or opinions about where the industry is headed. Take note of demographic and psychographic changes.

If you are not able to do the market research yourself, you may consider hiring a professional market researcher. A well-done market study is a sound investment.

Businesses that are backed up with a solid market study has a very good chance of succeeding.  Failure to do a market study can lead to a catastrophic outcome for startups.

7 Important Content Marketing Statistics for Asian Marketers

online content marketing

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Asian marketers can improve further the effectiveness of their content marketing campaigns by taking a serious look at these seven selected content marketing statistics compiled by Hubspot:

  1. 50% of businesses in APAC are doing content marketing, but have no strategy

Having no strategy is a common shortcoming of many content marketers not only in Asia but also in other regions of the world.

Without a content marketing strategy, our efforts will likely go to waste.

We will have no objectives to define why we are doing content marketing, no clear audience profile nor buyer persona, no chosen topics that will resonate with our audience, no systematic plan as to how, when, and where to publish content, no way to measure our progress, and no means of determining ROI.

Let us craft even a simple strategy to make our content marketing campaigns deliver at least modest initial results.  We can always learn along the way, iterate, and be more effective as we progress along.

  1. 70% of APAC businesses feel their content marketing efforts are limited, basic, or inconsistent

I have the same dilemma as this 70%.

While acknowledging the fact that content is crucial in today’s marketing success, we feel we are not doing enough as a result of either inadequate knowledge or lack of resources (particularly talent and time), or both.

Whatever we have started seems rudimentary and ineffective.

Compounding the problem are other priorities that keep us from consistently learning and improving on our content marketing.

Notwithstanding, we can always try to improve.  Let us set aside time to really learn and practice good content marketing and to consistently measure our progress as we move along.

  1. 57% of APAC marketers say producing quality content is an obstacle to their success

Not too many started with producing quality content.

According to some widely respected content marketers, they have attained successful status by persistently practicing and spending hundreds of hours creating content that really connect and engage with their audience.

It is never too late for us to start.  After a few hundred hours more of practice, we shall have delivered quality content to our target audience.

  1. 53% of marketers in APAC struggle to produce enough content

I am also struggling with this problem.

I am aware that the more we produce good content, the more we achieve a higher level of credibility resulting in more engagement and following by our audience.

But where in the world will I get topics for my content?  (Some online articles give pretty good suggestions on topic sources.) Or, how can I squeeze content writing into my busy work days?

As part of a content strategy, we can come up with a simple content calendar that includes creating a list of topics (not in one sitting) that can be of interest to our audience, can fill up at least a month’s schedule, and also include a schedule for researching and writing about it.

  1. Only 40% of businesses in Asia are convinced of the value of content marketing & can measure its ROI

This is something that some clients or bosses would really bring up to their consultant or marketing staff.  Some would even ask: “What is content marketing and why would I spend money on it?”. This is a perfectly valid question.

Aside from defining in simple terms what content marketing is, we should come up with an equally easy to understand strategy.

In addition to the marketing objectives, the other important part of our justification is to be able to show the ROI – we spend this much and we increase our sales this much over a certain period of time and generate this much incremental profit – which usually they would easily understand and approve.

  1. 69% of APAC businesses use website traffic to measure content marketing success

The more website traffic the better. More page views, more likes, more shares are good.  But in spite of all these good audience interactions, are we really getting any business?  Are we generating sales?  Are we signing up more subscribers?

Let us face it.  Most, if not all, of us are promoting online to boost our business, to bring in more sales. Is this not the reason why we have convinced our clients or bosses to launch a content marketing campaign?  Without revenue, we have no ROI to show.

Our online marketing efforts should always result, directly or indirectly, in producing a desirable ROI.

  1. 62% of APAC marketers measure their content success using social shares

This is similar to No. 6 above.  Social shares are good.  It is really fantastic if our content becomes viral.  Our product, service, brand, and company get unprecedented attention and eventually build a large following.

Again, we have to leverage these exciting developments to generate revenue and translate these into an appreciable ROI.

Hubspot has other more revealing and interesting statistics about content marketing in Asia Pacific.  I enjoin you to take these into consideration in your effort to become a more effective Asian content marketer.

As often said, a good content is one that is relevant, useful, and can emotionally connect with your target audience.  It is a food for thought that becomes a regular mental staple for your community of online followers who are passionate about the core theme of whatever you are dishing out to them.

Before we can consistently produce and effectively deliver good content, we should have a goal-directed strategy, the discipline to focus on and practice creating good content, and the persistence to progressively deliver an ROI that our clients or bosses would be happy about.

Is Your Business Startup Bound To Fail?

business startup

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The easiest part in starting a business is coming up with a business idea.  Taking your idea from the business concept stage up to business operation stage entails formidable challenges.  A founder’s inability to face up to these business startup challenges will result in costly failure.

Let us take a look at the three most common causes of startup failure:

Lack of understanding of the target market

  • Many startups do not follow a cardinal rule in marketing: know your customers. If you ignore your customers, how would you know their needs, problems, and pain points?
  • Some startups create products or services that nobody needs. Some say you create a need for the product. Some companies have succeeded in doing so and have become mightily famous for their popular products (mostly in the technology field) but this is more of an exception rather than the norm.
  • Others have poorly developed products. They fail to produce a minimum viable product and early users found it to be wanting in features that satisfy even their most basic needs.
  • Some price their products simply out of reach of customers or way above competitive level.
  • While others have ill-timed product launches.
  • Many have failed in marketing their products properly.  Showing products on social media is not enough.

Inadequate funding

  • Not a few startups have an inadequate amount of working capital.  They run out of cash before even reaching a volume of business that can sustain a healthy cash flow.
  • Running out of cash can be attributed to poor cash flow management, lack of operating budget, or simply wrong spending priorities.
  • Others have not properly prepared for securing funding. Some would approach prospective lenders and investors but are not convincing enough due to lack of a viable plan.

Poor business management know-how

  • Not everyone is cut out for running a business. Aside from inadequate knowledge of basic business management, a founder sometimes lacks the focus on the vision for the business, persistence, and willingness to work hard.
  • The startup founder may not be able to do it alone so he/she has to find business talents that can complement his/her knowhow. The founder should be able to assemble the right team of dedicated talents to run the startup business. The inability to mold the right team and/or maintain team harmony is detrimental to a startup.

Startup failures can be attributed to a combination of varying reasons arising either in succession or occurring almost all at the same time. More often than not, the startup founder is easily or eventually overwhelmed by these challenges and he/she consequently throws in the towel and close the business.

While preventing startup failure cannot be guaranteed 100%, it can be mitigated by running your business concept through a thorough and research-based business planning.

The most important aspect of the business plan is the market research and formulation of an appropriate marketing strategy and plan to ensure successful customer acceptance and patronage of the product/service.

It is also critical to prepare a realistic financial study that looks not only into the profitability of the startup but also into its liquidity.

A management study can identify who will be professionally and competently handling the various functions of the business.

A well-written business plan should be able to stand scrutiny and to convince prospective funders – investors or lenders – to finance your startup.

Your business plan will be critically important in reducing risks of startup failure.  But more than a good business plan, the success or failure of the startup largely depends on your character and competence as a founder.

How Effective is Email Marketing in Generating Sales?

email marketing

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Email marketing is still the preferred tool in closing sales or converting a lead into a customer. In fact, more online marketers recognize the critical role of email strategies and campaigns in their overall marketing strategy. The reasons are obvious.

Email campaign is not simply sending emails

An email campaign requires a lot of market data and customer insights.  You should have a good grasp of the following:

  • Demographics – gender, age, income, education, and location of your target clients/audience
  • Psychographics – their tastes, preferences, buying habits, and purchase decision influences
  • Competition – how competitors are trying to communicate and influence your target market
  • Your competitive advantage – how to maximize your competitive advantage to win the attention, interest, and patronage of your target buyers
  • Customer insights and analytics – your customers’ purchase history, online behavior and activities, social network engagements, site visits, page views, previous campaigns’ open rates, click-through rates, and conversions, and other relevant data

You then have to create an email design with images and copy that can get the attention of your target audience.  The overall design should be inviting, compelling, and persuasive. Be sure you have an unsubscribe option.

There should be a powerful and actionable call-to-action.

You have to develop also an effective landing page (a click-through landing page in case of email marketing) to adequately inform and guide your recipient-visitor toward making the much-desired purchasing decision.

Integrate social media into your email campaign by adding sharing buttons to your email.

Your email list should be of good quality. Some recipients’ email addresses change so it reduces the quality of your list.  Update your list and add new addresses. Use social media, blogs, and web content to grow your list. It is a bad idea to buy a third-party list.

Check also your email deliverability.  Does your email reach the inbox of your recipients? Make sure that your list includes only recipients with whom you have previous recent communication (this is why using a third-party list is such a bad idea).

Email marketing platforms are loaded with useful features

Email software packages come with a variety of features that you can use to enhance the reach and effectiveness of your campaigns.  Some of these features are:

  • Flexible designs – different email templates to match your campaign theme
  • Marketing automation – define certain conditions or customer behavior that, when met, can trigger or automatically send emails to designated recipients
  • Apps integration – sync your data from other apps and services you use
  • Tracking tools – tell you who is opening, clicking, and sharing your email
  • Analytics – use these metrics to analyze campaign performance so you can improve on your succeeding campaigns

There are a lot of other functionalities offered by the top email marketing software packages.

Email marketing is here to stay

While not all marketers depend on email marketing to optimize their conversion rate, it will still be the choice of many.  According to Hubspot, 75% of marketers were using more emails than they were three years ago. It will remain the best medium to communicate facts and figures, as well make an emotional connection of your brand, product or service to your target buyers.  It gives them all the information they would need and it can set off an underlying emotional appeal that leads to the coveted buying decision.

Don’t Start That Business Yet

BUSINESS CONCEPT

Not until you have a clear business concept.

What is a business concept?

It is an idea for a business. It can be an idea for an entirely new product or service of a startup business or it can be an improvement or expansion of an existing business.  Whatever your business concept is, it should include fundamental information about the new business.  Without these information, you and others cannot expect to have a clear grasp of what your business is all about.

Fundamental information in your business concept

There are a lot of information that can be included in a business concept and many ways (such as templates) of presenting these.  But the fewer and simpler these are, the better especially for a startup.  What you need are essential information that contribute to the clarity and point to the viability of your new business.

In generating those information, you may consider the following guide topics:

Marketing

  • Needs to be satisfied/Problems to be solved
  • Proposed solution
  • Target customers
  • Current options
  • Unique value offering
  • Market access

Operations

  • Major action steps
  • Vital assets needed
  • Important partners

Finance

  • Sources of revenue
  • Cost and expense items
  • Viability metrics

To make it easier for startup entrepreneurs, I have designed a short form consolidating fundamental information for a business concept.

Under each topic above, I have come up with questions the answers to which will provide you with the essential information.

Aside from these questions, I have given a corresponding weighted percentage to each of these topics.  These percentages gauge the respective importance of the topic to the viability of your business concept.

I call this single-sheet form as the Pre-Startup Business Concept Weighted Clarity Test.  Go ahead – test your business concept.  Rate yourself also on how convinced you are about the truthfulness and clarity of your answers.  The maximum rating for each topic is the percentage indicated.  Download the free test now.

Do you still need a written business plan?

If you are satisfied with the clarity and truthfulness of your answers, you can actually start approaching some potential customers, partners, and investors/funders about your business concept.  Ask for their comments and feedback.  Encourage them to ask questions so you can test how clear and viable your business concept is. You can also ask them for suggestions to improve it.

Now, if you believe you already have a viable business concept on hand, you may proceed with creating a minimum viable product or service offering, establish market/product fit, and develop a repeatable customer acquisition process. You seem to be ready to turn the concept into a business reality.

But wait.

You don’t have the details yet – the facts and figures – about your target market, your product or service, your finances.  You have not outlined yet a detailed plan how you will go about your marketing and sales, production, and operations.  Who will do what, when, and where? You have not come up with milestones to measure your progress and metrics against which to measure your performance.

You must have a written business plan to constantly guide you in your journey – from business concept to business success.  The shorter the business plan the better and it should be dynamic to reflect changes in the business environment and current realities.

With a clear and feasible business concept and a dynamic business plan on hand, go ahead and start that business.

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