The mobile internet has been both a blessing and a curse for startups and small businesses looking to build their brands from the ground up.
Never before in history has achieving awareness and influence been so democratized. Truly any brand can have their 15 seconds of fame – or more. However, that’s also the curse. There is more noise than ever before to stand out from and drive awareness.
Therefore it’s not a surprise that when we recently asked over 500 startup & small business owners what their primary digital marketing objective was — their number one priority was to increase company and product awareness. It even beat out driving inbound leads and customers — go figure.
In order to achieve brand awareness in this new mobile-driven, 86,400-second news cycle fledgling companies must go from no-name to known-name ASAP — with little budget to work with. However, before you quit or press the panic button, what if I told you that it’s possible?
The formula that we’ve found to be both successful and replicable in helping more than 100 startup brands build awareness over the last several years is pretty simple in principle:
SEO & Content Marketing: To Improve Discovery + PR: To improve storytelling and distribution = Increased company and product awareness
Here are 4 basic tips to get you headed in the right direction in applying this formula to your own small business brand on little to no budget (with a lot of help from free Google tools).
The first step in driving awareness for your small business brand is making it discoverable for customers that are more comfortable pulling information rather than having info pushed at them. To do that you must also recognize that your customer is increasingly likely to pull that information or discover your business through a mobile search on Google.
In fact, mobile searches account for close to 60% of searches today according to Hitwise. If you own a restaurant, a company in the health space or a sports venue the percentage of searches for companies in your market is even higher.
A big problem I see with many small businesses (that aren’t tech startups) is that they utilize an old template without realizing that it isn’t mobile-friendly – an issue in a world filled with on-the-go discoverers.
This is a major issue because Google and other search engines actually punish your search rankings if you don’t have a mobile-friendly site. To ensure your site meets the needed mobile guidelines use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
Searches are also moving local. So the next step is making sure your website is locally-relevant for Google mobile searches. One thing you can’t miss creating is a Google My Business page.
Include your address, business hours, phone number (use Google Voice if you don’t have a local line), location and other brand details APAP (as precisely as possible). And just like that, your business is more likely to visible at to top of local searches (think: “coworking and Boston”).
Notice I keep saying Google BTW. Nearly 80% of all searches are done through Google so as you optimize your small business brand for discovery you should really be thinking about optimizing for Google searches.
Speaking of Google, do a quick search right now for “restaurants near me” and compare the first five results shown. Thanks to Google My Business, restaurants’ reviews and ratings are displayed right below their names. All other variables aside, I’m willing to bet you’ll check out the place with more stars/reviews versus lower scoring competitors. Am I right?
Turns out, I am. Businesses with at least 10 reviews get 3.5x the attention and 6.5x the enquiries than those that fall short of 10.
So, how does a new company receive positive feedback online? To startup with: Ask for it! Tell your customers that reviews are welcomed. Secondly, send a follow-up emails to thank them for their business with a link to post a review. You can also set up a page on your website to direct companies to submit reviews there.
Once you have a handful of attractive reviews, why not showcase them in your physical office? It can’t hurt, especially if you have leads over from time to time. Create a (humble) “wall of fame” complete with a call to action to review your business. This can serve as creative inspiration for customers to post a positive, wall-worthy review of their own.
Content marketing is the secret to giving your brand a voice, along with broader air cover across potential customer searches. The secret to producing content that drives distribution and awareness is focusing on what keywords your potential customer may be searching for as they slide their thumbs.
In fact, marketers who use blogs generate 67% more leads than those who don’t. Not only that, blog posts cost 62% less per lead than outbound marketing.
Once you think of what relevant keywords your customers may be searching for it’s good to start with content that has the best chance of catching eyeballs and getting shared. We call this top of the funnel content or the content that might start to get customers to pay attention to your company as they start their way down the sales funnel.
So staying with the mobile-local thread, an example for a restaurant near me right now could be “5 Top Stops for Boston Tourists near the Seaport.” You’re not overselling the restaurant, you’re writing content that tourists will likely be searching for with Google mobile searches and you’re subtly including your restaurant somewhere within the listicle.
For small businesses or startups with B2B businesses how-to’s, market commentary, lowercase journalism and spotlights on customers can all work well as top of the funnel to middle of the funnel content.
Don’t believe that the blogging is working? It takes some time to see real results. However, after posting, track its clickthroughs on Google Analytics or how certain keywords improved your SEO. You might be pleasantly surprised with the results.
One tactic that can drive more immediate results for your small business brand is Public Relations. PR has the power to build a business overnight, attracting scores of leads and new customers and inserting your company’s voice into conversations in a way that allows it to be heard loud and clear.
For successful PR and narrative development, it’s important to first nail your Customer Value Proposition (CVP). A CVP formula typically looks like this:
For (specific type of customer) our (product/service) is a (simple descriptor) that (solves what problem?).
Once you have messaging that is both interesting and genuine to gain others’ trust, you can start thinking about what could make your small business brand newsworthy.
Newsworthiness of course is determined by a journalist. They, along with their readers or viewers are the judge and jury. Therefore you need to follow a blueprint for putting you small business brand in front of them.
Start with a topical peg, add an angle, back it up with supporting data and pinpoint your competitive differentiator.
With a focus on this formula while building a network full of eager ears, pitch your story and the ink will follow.
How do you find those journalists? Good question. Start with setting up Google Alerts to track industry keywords and journalists that may be covering these topics or your competitors. Their contact information is usually available in public domain.
However, if you’re struggling to find contacts there are cost-effective media databases out there today that are built for finding media contacts or influencers with large social followings. This social footprint is importantly as more than 60% of U.S. adults digest their news on social media.
No matter what size your business is, the battle for mobile attention can be conquered. Newsworthy PR, internally blogged content, raving reviews and a mobile/local web presence are weapons that will undoubtedly work in your favor to gain valuable traction in the digital sphere.
Hi, I'm Kyle Austin, the Founder and Managing partner at Beantown Media Ventures, a PR, content and digital marketing agency that has helped 100's of venture-backed startups drive inbound leads and build valuations. Throughout my career, I've created, executed and managed successful digital marketing campaigns for startups to Fortune 500 companies like Sony. I have my MBA from Babson College and when I'm not building startups and stories, or mentoring at MassChallenge, you can find me on the soccer field or the golf course!