customer acquisition

The Complete Customer Acquisition Guide for Cash Strapped Start ups and Small Businesses (Part 1)

All great products and services start with an idea.  From the idea comes the prototype written on a napkin and after a lot more hard work the product is released.  Now comes the hardest part, how do I get people to buy it?

Many entrepreneurs have the mindset that:  If I build it, they will surely come.  That is not always the case and is one of the most common mistakes and leading reasons that 8 out of 10 businesses fail in the first 18 months of existence.  Because let’s face it, if no one sees your product how will they ever buy it?

Every new and existing business wants to drive more traffic to their site and everyone asks the same question: how!?.  After a lot of reading, researching and thinking back on my own personal experiences, I came up with the idea for the: The complete customer acquisition guide for cash strapped start ups and small businesses.

I’ve broken this guide up into multiple parts so make sure to subscribe to our blog to ensure that you get notified of each new release!

Part 1: 

Website Referral Traffic:

SEO and Content Marketing

Customer acquisition online depends mainly on two things: (1) people visiting your website either when they do an Internet search for something you sell, or via a link to your site on another web page, in an email, or link or referral in social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc; and (2) your website, to inspire people who arrive there to purchase your products or services, or both, once they get there.

SEO

The purpose of Search Engine Optimization is to increase website-visitor count by getting your website home page ranked very high in the results of search engines. When shopping around for an SEO expert to help you with your site, it’s just as important that the individual or company follow ethical principles of SEO.

On the subject of SEO, at the end of last year Google started penalizing websites that used “Black Hat” SEO. This is something you may want to avoid. Courtesy of WordSteam: ‘Black Hat SEO is a practice that increases a web page’s rank in search engines’ results through means that violate a search engine’s terms of service. The term “black hat” originated in Western movies to distinguish the “bad guys,” who wore black hats, from the “good guys,” who wore white hats.’ For a good look and feel of this, find a “Spy vs. Spy” vignette in an original Mad magazine issue.

Black Hat SEO really works, and it can really bump your page up to the top of a search list. But as WordStream adds: “Implementing Black Hat SEO tactics and strategies can get your site banned from search engines, excluding you from the number one traffic referral source on the Internet.”

WordStream also explains “How to achieve Black Hat results without doing anything immoral or jeopardizing your long-term business,” and balances that enthusiasm with the cautionary section, “How to Report Black Hat SEO.”.

Startups and other entrepreneurs take heart—here’s where it begins to get positive. Mashable responded to Google’s SEO clamp-down with an article titled, “How do you combat Google’s new initiative to stop the SEO benefits that link-building [a Black Hat SEO trick] businesses bring?”

Mashable conducted many interviews including one with social media expert and entrepreneur Sarah Ware, CEO of Markerly, who says: “We are entering into a new Internet age, and the best way to build your page rank is by writing quality content that organically gets read and distributed. A more effective and faster alternative is to pay for sponsored content [we will see about that, Sarah, in our “Sponsored Content” section below, heh heh heh]. This will bring traffic to your site and increase awareness and page rank. Work only with respected content agencies because Google will penalize and remove any publisher [i.e., website] that does not disclose sponsored content correctly on Google News”—so you can tip your Black Hat (SEO) to sponsored content….

If you are a startup or an already started-up business and want to increase the power in your online marketing strategy, you are probably looking extra hard for the right help.  Maybe Google did you all a favor by imposing SEO restrictions, which placed due focus on content—as another expert weighs in on Mashable’s Google discussion, Kelsey Meyer of Contributor Weekly: “Link-building by simply dropping irrelevant links into content just isn’t okay any more. Ask the [SEO expert you are considering hiring] if they . . . care about the content. High-quality contributed content will work better in the long run.”

Sure, maybe the “long run” strategy sounds okay for later, but what about if you are set in the blocks and ready to start off—or start up—on a 100-meter dash to launch your enterprise’s website and/or start making some good money immediately? By now I think we are beginning to see that SEO and content are walking hand-in-glove, and that you would do very well to hire experts to provide both.

Getting to the Content

Good content on your site drives traffic to your site. One of the best ways to energize visits to your page is to create good content that will appear on other sites and link back to your site. “Content is a big driver for SEO and very important for link-building. A good piece of content will be shared on social media and possibly picked up by other sites, which will add organic links back to your websites. If you find somebody who has strong and organic relationships with bloggers or PR sites, then it might make more sense to work with them,” says Andy Karuza of Brandbuddee, in the Mashable article. Karuza also says, “[For example,] I was published for my commentary here [on Mashable] with a link to my website”—as is also done for him here in this blog—good on ya, mate!

So, you can see how we are modelling this exemplary content marketing strategy. Because someone writes good content which helps you, they get kudos, props, and maybe you as at least a window shopper and referrer.

Where the rubber hits the road about now is your finding the SEO and content experts who will work professionally, ethically, and who are to your personal liking—after all, it’s your advertising, marketing, and product or service—your brand—that’s going out to the world, to hundreds of millions of potential customers. We break this out into a suggested list of experts we trust at the end.

To sum up here are a few specific words to the wise about hiring anybody. By the way, as you probably know, whether it’s hiring a potential long-term employee or for a one-off project, whom you hire to do anything is just as super-critical as any other business dynamic and decision.

So whom will you hire to do your SEO and content?; and it might be two different companies or individual experts. According to Brett Farmiloe of Digital Marketing Agency: “Many SEO companies are scams. Get a name, a number, and social media accounts of the person who will do the SEO on your site. Why? If you don’t know who will be doing the SEO on your site, there’s a good chance the vendor is simply a front to accept your business and outsource everything. Buyers should know from whom they are purchasing and what they’re purchasing. If they do give a name, allow a 60-day period before you hire them. During those 60 days, you’ll see if the person working on your site is someone you feel comfortable working with. Call the person a few times and ask questions. Does your contact answer his phone or respond to email, or do your questions go unanswered? Does he check out online? Make sure the person is real.”

While this may seem like overkill, again, the importance of hiring the right or best people cannot be overemphasized.

Word of Caution on Sponsored Content

Last but not least, content gurus at Contently have just exploded the sponsored content syndrome. What is sponsored content? American Press Institute describes it as “native to the specific publication or platform [i.e., the website or page] it appears on, mimicking the qualities of [the site or page]…. It is generally understood to be content that takes the same form and qualities of a [site’s or page’s] original content. It usually serves useful or entertaining information as a way of favorably influencing the perception of the sponsor brand”—i.e., attempting to influence you to purchase the product or service advertised.

Doesn’t sound all that nasty, or does it? Contently’s research poll reveals the following:

(1) Two-thirds of readers feel deceived upon realizing that an article or video is sponsored by an advertiser.

(2) 54 percent of readers don’t trust sponsored content.

(3) 59 percent of readers believe a news site loses credibility if it runs articles sponsored by an advertiser.

And speaking of nastiness, in a move that almost equals using sponsored content on your site, Fortune scooped the Contently article the same day and published a version of the story almost as if it was Fortune’s original idea! I mean, is this cyber-cannibalism or what? The Fortune piece does get some good licks in, though, such as a meme with a funny photo with this caption: “Everything was going well until John realized that the hilarious list of management failures he was reading was sponsored by a burrito.” That’s kind of like the meme of the toaster turned on its side to make grilled cheese, which shoots out the toast ‘n cheese onto the floor 🙁

After Contently had only plunged the dagger in, now they twisted it. “But how do readers feel about sponsored content?,” the article asks. In his research, “Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat,” revealed that only 24 percent of website visitors read sponsored content, and that they only scroll down about one-third of the way. Whereas 71 percent of visitors read “normal content”—that’s the good kind, “White Hat” kind.  Contently says Haile’s research is “a damning indictment of the quality of sponsored content at large.”

Ultimately, every startup is his or her own creator of his or her own site, its content, and how the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the cyber-way will drive there and shop. Beep beep, tout tout… Oh, better get a move on…to…

Related: Part 2 of the Complete Customer Acquisition Guide for Cash Strapped Start ups and Small Businesses 

Again, as a reminder.  I’ve broken this guide up into multiple parts so make sure to subscribe to our blog (below) to ensure that you get notified of each new release!  Enjoy!

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