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Tips for Startups

7 Most Effective Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

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marketing strategy

If you’ve just started running your own small business or you’ve been in one for some time, you probably constantly think about various ways to attract more customers. There are many marketing tricks you can use in order to do that. You just need to decide which would be most suitable for your type of business. In this article, we offer a list of ten most effective strategies for small businesses that will help you run your business smoothly.

# 1 Make Clear Plans

The first and most important step in any business is setting a clear goal and organizing your budget. Ask yourself what you truly want to achieve; what your ultimate goal is. Do you need to think about brand awareness or how to extend your reach? Whatever you decide, make sure you manage your budget carefully and constantly keep track of your money. Also, think about what your needs are at the moment and which objectives you can set aside for now. Prioritizing your goals is the key of success.

# 2 Use SEO Tactics

Search Engine Optimization is used by majority of marketers who want to reach a higher place on Google, Yahoo or other search engines. In this way, they are able to increase visits to their websites and attract more customers. Keyword research is one of the easiest ways you can use to increase traffic. Keyword tools that you can utilize include Wordstream’s Free Keyword Tool, KWFinder and Google’s Keyword Planner. If you’ve just started working on your marketing strategy, best start with long-tail keywords, as they are more specific and much less competitive. Identify a list of keywords that you think will attract relevant visitors to your website and include them in body content, headings, title tags and image file names, so that search engines can recognize the relevance of your content.

# 3 Online Marketing Magic

If you want to boost your business online and get positive results, you’ll have to invest some money in display, search and social ads. Pay to play, as they say. In order to earn money, learn how to strategically spend some first. Hire a professional if necessary to help you with Facebook Ads or AdWords, as this sort of work can be quite tricky if you don’t have relevant experience.

# 4 Pick the Right Social Media

If you spend hours trying to keep your business present on all social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+, perhaps it’s time you consider a different tactic. It might be more effective to stick to one channel your customers follow most regularly and invest more time and energy there. By analyzing your current social media presence you can find out where the highest customer engagement is. The best tip you’ll ever get proves to be true in this field, too – less is more.

# 5 Turn the Creative Energy into a Blog

Publishing a blog on a regular basis can be truly effective. It can help you promote your business by telling potential customers all about your expertize and providing them with useful guidance and tips. Apart from that, you can always use blog to announce projects you take part in and awards you’ve received. Blogging can be fun, but also time-consuming. Make sure you always stick to quality over quantity and that you’re being consistent – one blog per week sounds perfect!

# 6 Email Marketing

Email marketing has proved to be an incredibly effective way of promoting your small business and attract larger number of potential customers. The subscribers to your email list are people who intentionally want to hear from you on a regular basis, so you need to pay special attention to what, when and why you send. Include sending a weekly or bi-weekly newsletter with interesting, creative and relevant content. Personalize your emails by using customers’ first names and using friendly, yet professional tone. Writing a good subject line that will invoke recipient’s curiosity is of extreme importance. However, be careful not to use spam trigger words any spam filter of high quality would recognize. You want each of your messages to end up in the recipient’s inbox, not spam folder. Also, make sure your emails are mobile-friendly, as nowadays majority of people check their emails on their mobile devices.

# 7 Stand Out from the Crowd

Don’t hesitate to be original, creative and unique. Your audience will appreciate your effort to stand out and be different. If nothing else, this is what makes a marketing strategy great and successful – its uniqueness, freshness and originality. Write an attractive “About Us” page to state your mission and tell everybody why you’re best at what you do.

Next to all the strategies mentioned above, no matter how truly great they are, don’t forget that connecting with real people offline can also be extremely effective. Perhaps in the era of digital technology, we tend to forget that one and amazing “word of mouth” tactic. There’s still nothing more powerful than that.

A writer with a degree in marketing. Interested in digital marketing, social media, start-ups and latest trends.

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Tips for Startups

Customer Discovery: the Hidden Key to a Successful Startup

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key to Successful startup

The term “customer discovery” might make you think of all kinds of processes.

Is it the part where you try to learn as much about your customers as you can? Is it the part where you go out and discover actual flesh-and-blood customers who will buy your products? Is it something else?

Turns out, it’s something else.

What Is Customer Discovery?

Customer discovery is a term used by two of the main figures of the lean startup methodology, Steve Blank and Eric Reis. They define customer discovery as questioning your core business assumptions. It is a way for you to validate your ideas and theories by going to the source – the customer – and a way to flesh out evidence supporting your product-market fit.

When Would You Need Customer Discovery?

In reality, you need customer discovery whenever you are designing a product or a service.

Let’s break it down into three distinct stages:

  1. You define a problem/market need (that your product/service is meant to fill).
  2. You develop a hypothesis about the solution (i.e., develop the product/service idea).
  3. You conduct an experiment to test your hypothesis (gather data from actual customers).

Yes, customer discovery is meant to validate your ideas – but it is more of a scientific approach than asking your friends, family, and coworkers what they think about your idea and whether they think it would work.

Let’s take a look at the four key steps to customer discovery, and see how you can use it to design solutions that fit your customer’s needs.

Step One: Come up with Your Hypothesis

This step encompasses stages one and two we’ve listed above: you are defining both the problem and the solution you are proposing to implement, and you are forming a hypothesis as to how the solution will impact the problem.

The best way to formulate your hypothesis is in a single sentence: my solution solves problem X. As simple as that.

You want to be incredibly specific with your hypothesis, and you want it to be accurate. Don’t just assume certain people have a certain problem. What if these people don’t see it as a problem?

That’s what customer discovery will help you discover, but in order to set off on the best foot possible, ensure you have a firm grasp of the issue yourself.

As for specificity: don’t just say, “I am solving the problem of lack of dog walkers by starting a dog walking service.” Instead, go for “I am solving a problem people living in this area have with walking their dogs from 9-5 by offering a safe, hassle-free, and reliable dog walking service”.

Step Two: Define Your Assumptions

As you can already tell, you were forced to make certain assumptions in step one. They may be correct, or they may be incorrect, and now is the time to write them all down.

You may be assuming that something is a problem (when, in fact, it isn’t), you may be assuming that your solution will help (when in reality, it won’t), and you may be assuming a certain demographic has this issue (which they may not).

Once you have your assumptions down, create a target persona in order to alleviate as much of them as possible. This is the person you are targeting, your ideal customer, the person with these problems.

Go into as much detail about your persona as possible, as it will help you ensure your data is sound later on.

Step Three: Test It out

Now that you have your hypothesis, an ideal customer in mind, and you are (in theory) aware of at least some of the pitfalls you may be facing, the time has come to test your theory out in the real world.

You are going to ask some people some questions.

The people you start with should be your potential customers. In our hypothetical case, dog owners living in a certain area, working 9-to-5 jobs.

Don’t ask people living in other areas, people who own cats and not dogs, or people who don’t own dogs but live in the area and work the nine-to-five. You have defined your audience – stick to it.

As for the questions themselves, you need to be very careful about how you formulate them.

You don’t want to ask, “Do you think this is a good idea?”. You don’t want to say anything about your idea, in fact. You want the people you’re asking to tell you what they would appreciate as a solution, and you are then going to build your solution based on their answers.

This is what customer discovery is about – creating a final product that matches the real needs of real customers.

To that end, your questions should be open-ended and not specifically related to your idea. Here are some examples:

  • What do you currently do for…?
  • Do you like the process?
  • Is it working out for you?
  • If you could improve the process, how would you do it?
  • What is the biggest challenge about…?
  • What do you like about it?

And so on.

The answers you get should help you outline your solution and make it a reality in the future.

Step Four: Evaluate Your Data

Now that you have plenty of data at your disposal, the time has come to go through it.

If you have done your homework well, you’ve likely discovered information you had no idea about previously. Someone has pointed out a solution or an issue you were not aware of.

This allows you to go back and refine your hypothesis and the idea itself, at which point you can do another round of customer discovery.

If, however, you’ve discovered your hypothesis was entirely correct, you can move on to product development.

Test out more than one hypothesis, and keep discovering until you are satisfied that you have come up with the best possible solution.

Final Thoughts

Customer discovery is certainly a lengthy and complex process, but it’s worth all the effort. It can significantly increase your chances of producing a solution that not only works but that is already sought after by a vast number of people. Consequently, your solution will be much more likely to become a success.

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Cyber Security

Top 6 Cybersecurity Lessons Startups Can Learn From Healthcare Organizations

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cyber security lessons startups can l;erarn from health care companies

COVID-19 won’t be here forever, but cybercriminals will!

Leveraging the COVID-19 situation, cybercriminals are targeting SMEs and even large enterprises to steal valuable information. Many reports claim that cybercrimes have doubled in the last couple of months.

The healthcare industry is one of the latest victims of cybercriminals. According to Accenture, the healthcare industry has witnessed around 41% increase in cyberattacks. The report also says that the healthcare industry on average experiences 130 data breaches in a year.

However, as a healthcare IT consultant, I have recently noticed that healthcare organizations are ramping up their efforts to safeguard patient data. And for that, they are deploying many technologies, solutions and unique cost-effective ideas.

The technologies, solutions and ideas healthcare startups are deploying are so effective that other startups can learn cybersecurity lessons from healthcare startups. Today, in this blog, I will share the same. I will list down 6 cybersecurity lessons learned from healthcare organizations in 2020 during COVID-19.

How are healthcare startups avoiding cybercriminals? (Learning from other startups!)  

Avoiding cybercriminals or ensuring data security is not a task, it is the process. And a process is always more complicated than a task. But here is how healthcare organizations are streamlining the process, the cybersecurity process.

  1. Determine the cybersecurity risks level 

Not all healthcare startups are on the radar of cybercriminals. Thus, it is a rational idea to determine the possibility of a cyberattack or to determine the cybersecurity risks level. This process enables organizations to know the threat level – whether they are on the radar of cybercriminals or not. 

To find the cybersecurity risks level, healthcare organizations simply link the type of data they store to the motive of cybercriminals. For instance, if a healthcare organization stores medical images of patients and not the patient’s personal and financial data, they should not invest more in cybersecurity.

But if a healthcare organization stores many valuable data of the patients, accommodates less-trained staff and works with legacy networks, they should worry about cybersecurity as their cybersecurity risk is high.

Learning for other startups: You should invest only after confirming that you are the potential target! If you do not store any crucial data, you don’t have to allocate your resources to cybersecurity.

  • Find the loopholes through technical assessment

A network has many open doors or errors which work as the opportunities for hackers to get access to databases. They usually scan the network and attack the ‘fragile part’. Thus, it is important to find the loopholes in the network and fix it to close the entry doors for the cybercriminals.

Carrying out the technical assessment is the best way to find loopholes in the network. It is designed to yield the vulnerability in the network. A technical assessment does not only aim to find the vulnerabilities, but it also aims to quantify and prioritize the vulnerabilities.

So, now when cybersecurity experts know the loopholes which cybercriminals can leverage to attack, the cybersecurity experts can easily avoid the attack by fixing the loopholes.

Learning for other startups:

This is the best method to avoid cyber attacks. You should find the open doors in your network and close it to prevent the undetected entry of hackers into your network.

  • Software configuration assessment

A healthcare organization uses a number of software to streamline operations. They also use a lot of complex software. Sometimes, the poor configuration of these complex software creates easy paths for cybercriminals to attack the enterprise network as cybercriminals are many times using software to get access to the network or a server.

Learning for other startups:

While installing software on a computer device connected in the enterprise network, make sure the authenticity of the software and do not change the installation setting or software setting without the proper knowledge.

  • Quick incident response

Regardless of the efforts healthcare organizations put to safeguard the network, cybercriminals many times find ways to penetrate the security measures. In such a scenario, only a quick incident response is hope.

Healthcare organizations always pay extra heed to incident response. They form a team which quickly takes control over the network and close the paths for attackers before they cause havoc.

The incident response team utilizes many security tools to monitor the network in real-time. If they identify any unusual activity or the system alerts them, they quickly put best practices to work to prevent cybercriminals from getting system access.

Learning for other startups:

Always work best but prepare for the worst. Cybercriminals can anytime, anyhow bypass the security of your system. So, be proactive and prepared.

  • Train the staff

Generally, staff working in the healthcare organization lacks the knowledge of the cybersecurity which leads them to click on any malicious links or commit any costly mistake. Thus, healthcare organizations are putting emphasis on staff training. They give basic knowledge about cybersecurity and their deployed network to the staff and keep testing the staff’s cybersecurity knowledge after a fixed interval.

Learning for other startups:

If your staff does not follow cyber hygiene, things can easily go messy as staff members have network access and they spend the majority of their time around it.

  • Always deploy feature-packed security solution including firewall

To ensure cybersecurity, deploying software security solutions as well as hardware security solutions is the basic requirement. But a premium security solution works more precisely and efficiently than an affordable security solution. Thus, healthcare organizations generally deploy premium feature-packed security solutions, especially a firewall.

A feature-packed firewall costs a bit more than the basic firewall. But a feature-packed firewall is worth the money. It does not only safeguard the enterprise network but offers many flexibilities and real-time network data to the admin.

For instance,

  • Admin can know the connected network and find the data usage of each network.
Silhouette of a radar station on the Polish coast at sunset.
  • Admin can know the top sources of threats to a network.
Silhouette of a radar station on the Polish coast at sunset.
  • Admin can know the most affected network.
  • Admin can impose content filtering to prevent users from opening irrelevant sites.
Silhouette of a radar station on the Polish coast at sunset.
  • Admin can know every single activity of the users on that network.

Learning for other startups:

An ‘affordable security solution’ is the myth, actually!

In a nutshell: 

Cybersecurity is the challenge for any startup serving in any industry. An ever-increasing number of cybersecurity attacks clearly depicts that it is a much bigger problem for startups than COVID-19.

However, there is one industry that is pulling out all dots to curb the coronavirus as well as cyberattacks. In this blog, we have discussed 6 ways of how healthcare organizations are safeguarding crucial patient data.

These ways are,

  • Confirm the level of cyberattack risk
  • Find the loopholes in the network and fix it
  • Do  not configure the software without proper knowledge
  • Form an incident response team
  • Train the staff
  • Opt for feature-packed security solutions 
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Tips for Startups

CoronaVirus Changes Everything; Your Startup’s Survival Guide During The Pandemic

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Startups Survival Guide
Startups Survival Guide

Nothing will ever remain the same, not even your weight after this pandemic. Maybe your name will, but that’s beside the point. Everything will change; the entire world will change. The market won’t be the same, but change can be a good thing, right? If you’re a startup, then this can be a very challenging moment for your business.

Many industries took a great hit as a result of the outbreak, and a lot of businesses were affected, some of them took a huge loss while others profited a lot from it, companies like Zoom watched their profit skyrocket in such a short period of time. Managing your business is very crucial during these times, and there are a few steps you can take for your startup to survive in this pandemic.

1) Calculate your risk

First of all, you have to evaluate all the risks the pandemic poses to your business and the losses you’ve already incurred. Calculating and controlling your burn rate at this stage is essential for your business to survive.

You do not want to incur losses at this point because the future of your startup after the pandemic is not very certain, and you have to do everything in your power to keep the business going.

2) Efficient Team Management

Your team is very important to your business. You should encourage team spirit in a time like this, reach out to your team members, make sure they’re doing okay, let them know how important they are to the company and to you.

Most people tend to suffer emotionally during a pandemic, which could be a result of the fear of losing a loved one during this period, at this point, you don’t know what the future holds for you. This makes it important you let them connect with one another even on a personal level, encourage them to check up one another, treat them like your one big family, and build a support system. This helps build their focus and creativity and enables them to work efficiently.

3) Digital Communication

You have to set communication standards and tools in other to be able to communicate ideas with your employees and work efficiently. Despite the pandemic you have to stay productive, not being able to meet in person with your employees shouldn’t limit that.

Companies like Zoom has made communication easy, and you’ll find out that your employees don’t even need to show up at work every day to keep your business running.

4) Manage your Resources

You have to analyze the resources you have and manage them because you don’t know how long the pandemic will persist, so try to curtail your expenses in every possible way and evaluate how to make your current resources last for at least a year.

Make a business continuity plan, and it will enable you to use your resources efficiently. Also, consider cutting down on the number of workers you have so you don’t have to spend a lot on salaries.

Work more with freelancers, that way you don’t have to recruit workers when the outbreak is over. Also, consider some good passive income ideas that can help you make money in these tough times. Starting a website and affiliate marketing for digital products are one of the popular ideas.

5) Promote Innovation

This is a step you have to take seriously. The success of your business lies in innovation, introducing new ideas, and implementing change when necessary, and this helps you stay relevant to society at large.

In order to achieve this, you have to create room for your workers to come up with ideas, hold brainstorming sessions, and support all the ideas they come up with. This makes them feel like they’re active members, which of course, they are. Even when they make mistakes, tolerate them, it creates an enabling environment for their minds to create.

6) Protect your customers

Keeping your customers safe should be your priority. The Corona Virus outbreak has made the demand for Hand Sanitizers high. Even the nose masks people didn’t care about so much in the past.

These are basic things your customers need that you can make available to them. No one can protect your customers for you. They’re the ones that’ll keep your business running. It’s time to give back to them in any way you can. You can make Sanitizers and provide nose masks for them. If they’re safe, then your business is safe.

Summing Up

Just as you’re keeping your customers safe, keep your employees safe too. Cancel all social gathering, let them work remotely, so they don’t have to worry about contracting the virus. Educate them on the essential things they need to know about the virus and how to avoid it.

You can communicate from wherever you are, online schedule meetings, and discussion sessions. Above all, keep yourself safe too. Use hand sanitizer always and your nose mask if there is an urgent need for you to go out. If we can survive this pandemic together, we can survive anything.

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