So you’re ready with a startup idea and are raring to take the next step forward. Pat yourself on your back for being courageous enough to give wings to your dreams and deviating from the sheltered path adopted by 95% of your contemporaries!
It is no mean feat — especially when the stakes are stacked against you.
Anyway, back to what we’re discussing.
What should be your next step after coming up with a potentially great startup idea?
Well, it could be anything depending on what your priorities are and how serious you are about your new venture.
Yes, there’s the need to validate your idea further by taking feedback from business consultants or better still — fellow entrepreneurs (as they’ve been in the same boat already and know what’s it like to make it to the other end) — perfecting your pitches, focusing on funding strategies, eyeing a beta launch etc.
Now, don’t get us wrong. All these are perfectly helpful and necessary steps.
But at the core of your startup idea should be a decision to keep things as simple as possible amid all the clutter, chaos and confusion.
For starters, focus on enhancing the quality of your product and make it so awesome that its awesomeness becomes the differentiator. Your potential customers should find your product so damn good that they keep coming back to you and spread the word around.
Difference between a listed product and a product that sells is the same as that between a Copywriter and Marketer.
If you’re a product company, follow the rule of 5 W’s – to create seductive and informative copy that will motivate your customers to click “buy”.
This should be the starting point of your next step, really.
But let’s face it. Any product or service, no matter how brilliant it sounds on paper, needs to reach people who’re going to benefit from it. Only then will it give your business the oxygen it needs to survive and grow.
In other words, you need a starting point to get to that starting point — to convince your audience about why they should care about your idea in the first place.
Will it make a real difference in their lives? More importantly, how do they know that it will?
Pay attention to the second question as it holds the key to your business’s potentially limitless expansion. It also gives you a cue on what your next move should be — spreading the word through the wonderful vehicle of marketing.
Not just any marketing, but content marketing. And not because it prefixes ‘content’ before ‘marketing.’
After all, it’s not without a reason that it has captivated the imagination of almost all leading brands worldwide. According to research, 75% of marketers are increasing their spend on content marketing and 70% of the audience would rather hear about a company via articles and not advertisements.
The fact is this: content marketing almost always works, when done right. It is also way cheaper than traditional marketing (by as much as 62% according to Neil Patel), and generates about 3X as many leads with a much lower CAC.
This means more leads at lesser costs! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of free inexpensive channels by which you can create and share content to a broader audience.
In fact, content marketing is the only approach that allows you to expand your business using zero spend. This makes it a godsend opportunity for startups that neither have the resources nor the experience to create and market the sheer volume of content that their larger counterparts do.
All you need is:
An internet connection
The ability and willingness to feel the pain points of your potential customers as your own and meet them right where they are.
An unending conviction in your business idea.
Beyond that, content marketing can be easily inter-weaved into practically any online strategy to amplify its results.
Keen to get more people to sign up to your email-list? It is content that impels them to act on the CTA.
Hit a deadlock on your next social media post? Sharing your recent blog post could be one simple yet mighty effective strategy. Again, content rules the roost.
Need to hone your SEO tactics? Relevant, timely and actionable content helps drive traffic and fortifies your SEO reach.
Seeking new ways to onboard your SaaS sign-ups and give critical pointers for expansion? Do it in style with content!
Want to connect with influencers? Speaking about them in/through your content gives you another happy reason to reach out to viewers on social media!
In a nutshell, content can and should become the foundation of your other strategies, including driving traffic to your website. It is an effective way of cementing your brand in the mind space of your audience by developing an authoritative voice. It informs your audience that you’re a desirable business to follow because you care about the reputation of not just your own brand, but also about your consumers (through their association with you).
In addition, it helps you maximize existing established audiences. As a case in point, the first 1,200 clients of Design Pickle were sealed through content — more specifically blog posts.
But you can’t just write a blog and expect a miracle, in the form of reach and virality. You have to wear a bunch of hats – content writer, editor, marketer, SEO specialist, customer service manager, among others.
Here are 5 things to do for your blog, before and after you hit “publish” – to get maximum reach:
According to founder Russ Perry, a large part of this phenomenal growth was owed to influential blogs. He points out that this idea gave him the impetus to keep generating content as he was answerable to his guest posters.
The best way for your startup to maximize this compelling strategy is selecting blogs which have a large audience and more importantly, are part of your (identified) target audience. Thankfully, you don’t need to base your plans on some of the biggest ones out there; there are many who may not be as big, but have a good, established audience base that you can look at.
Finally, as a startup, you have a great opportunity to show the way and lead the pack.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, the number of startups who’re happy with their content or with the effectiveness of their strategy are steadily increasing.
If you think about it calmly, you’ll agree that you do have room to lead the way or at least, be a forerunner. Look at the small size of your business as your biggest strength. Think about this: As a tiny player, you can be agile enough to devise strategy and take decisions on the fly.
Furthermore, you stand a better chance of building long-term relationships with your audience outside of ‘big business’ anonymity.
Joe Pulizzi from Content Marketing Institute agrees, “It’s so simple, yet so hard for even mid-sized companies to do this. With financial expectations on a quarterly basis at best, few larger companies have the patience to build a loyal relationship with an audience. In addition, budgets are set up as time-based campaigns, where short-term objectives take priority. That means the business tries to monetize the content program before the audience is ready (a big mistake)”.
There you go. As a startup, content marketing could be your single most effective growth channel. There is more than enough evidence to suggest that it is one of the best ways (if not the best) to help startups lead the high-stake pack.
More and more brands are realizing that content marketing affects every digital strategy they’re leveraging. But more than anything, it rekindles your audience’s faith in the source of information they value most — you.
Do you integrate content marketing in your growth strategy? Will you use it more proactively?
Musk joins a growing list of renowned scientists and intellectuals (Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates) who have voiced their concerns about this issue. Scary predictions conjuring up scarier images of an insurmountable intelligent entity that is hell bent on exterminating the entire human race.
Perhaps he’s right. Perhaps we may be confronted with a situation where intelligent and self-learning robots with evil intentions will pose a threat to humanity.
He even recommends people sharpen their brains to remain competitive in an AI-driven market. For now though, the reality is this:
We can barely power AI-driven robots to climb stairs or pack products, let alone liquefy and navigate through rubble-strewn hallways.
The possibility of any existential threat lies in the womb of a very distant future and most concerns surrounding its alarming imminence appear to be a tad bit optimistic.
So does that mean we’re safe and don’t need to worry or think about the possible implications of AI?
Well, not quite.
Let’s take a download on areas where AI and Humans can possibly take a calibrated approach.
Let’s face it: AI-enabled automation is set to drastically disrupt the current status quo of the economy. From time to time, we hear stories that AI is going to steal millions of jobs by automating human-performed tasks.
As per a recent study, AI has the potential of making nearly 40% of all jobs redundant by 2030.
But here’s the good news — it’s not happening anytime soon.
Also, history is replete with examples (the industrial revolution being a case in point) that any disrupting technology ends up creating more jobs in the long run even if that means causing some intense short-term pain.
The fact that human workforce will be required to manage, regulate and enhance AI technologies is a clear indicator that new jobs will make way for old ones, which will have a cascading effect in terms of creating new opportunities.
Weapons of Mass Destruction:
Now, countries have and do leverage futuristic technologies to make powerful drones that not only fly with an amazing degree of autonomy, but also make intuitive use of imagery and other sensory data to hit its target.
In fact, Musk famously commented,
“I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react, because it seems so ethereal.”
Probably he does have a point.
But again, nothing major has transpired, that seems to suggest AI-based weaponry is set to make human lives hostile.
Now, we know some people worry about what would happen if we let machines make automated decisions. This would inadvertently make AI a glaringly dangerous proposition.
But here’s the point. As long as our human brain is in charge, it is likely to undergo system evolutions and concede to strong mechanisms to counteract potential mishaps.
AGI (Artificial General Intelligence):
Musk also noted,
“Robots will be able to do everything better than us.”
This again suggests that he believes in the imminence of AGI.
Philosophically speaking, AGI is a possibility because of the theory about the universality of computation in which, everything that a physical object is capable of doing (in accordance with the laws of physics) can be replicated arbitrarily by a computer-made program — as long as it has enough time and memory.
A 19th-century mathematician named Charles Babbage was the first one to explore its wide-ranging ramifications.
There’s no denying the fact that scientists are in the process of creating intelligent and self-learning robots who recognize patterns, base their decisions on those patterns and ‘unlearn’ what they’ve previously learned. This can have them enter unfamiliar territories and enjoy a stronger influence on our lives in terms of speed and efficiency.
But, here’s the thing:
Artificial intelligence can indeed solve numerous problems, but it is nowhere close to replicating the human brain fully — anytime soon.
We’re nowhere close to building a replica of the human brain yet, and that’s a good thing because it clearly demonstrates who’s in charge.
The way most programs or even robots (virtual assistants) are made, it’s difficult to foresee that they’ll be making totally independent decisions — because they do not and cannot function like human brains. In other words, it’s unlikely that existing architectures will become what we popularly call “intelligent.”
Yes, AI can beat world champions at a game of chess, navigate driverless cars, interpret tons of massive data and optimize internet searches. But it cannot conceive, plan or adapt like a human brain does.
Also, even if AI does threaten our jobs, it won’t be due to the fact that data scientists have created robots that have sharper brains than ours. In fact, advancements in artificial intelligence are intrinsically designed to solve problems or perform specific tasks such as making musical recommendations on Pandora or analyzing driving habits. However, we’re long way off from when AGI begins to simulate a human in dangerous ways.
Oren Etzioni, the CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, notes,
“General Intelligence is what people do. We don’t have a computer that can function with the capabilities of a six year old, or even a three year old, and so we’re very far from general intelligence. There’s no dialogue, there’s really no background knowledge and as a result…the system’s misunderstanding of what we say is often downright comical.”
In all fairness, it is not that Musk is against AI and its efficacy per se, as suggested by Stuart Russell, principal at Cal’s Center for Human-Compatible AI.
“First, Musk isn’t against AI. After all, he funds a lot of it both within Tesla and elsewhere [OpenAI, DeepMind]. He just wants people to recognize that it has downsides, possibly very large [downsides], in the future, and to work on avoiding those. You can be in favor of nuclear power while still arguing for research on [reactor] containment. In fact, inadequate attention to containment at Chernobyl destroyed the entire nuclear industry worldwide, possibly forever. So let’s not keep presenting these false dichotomies.”
Maybe the takeaway is that not just businesses but the world at large needs to prepare for another revolution in the making, not because of the imminent threat it poses but for future in-roads in collaboration. Afterall, they say, if you can’t beat them, join them.
As always, the way forward is figuring out a palpable middle ground — a melting point of different ideas and possibilities.
All said and done, businesses would do well to keep pace with burgeoning AI advances. As programs are becoming more adept at performing tasks (and at a much greater scale & pace) that were previously done by humans, they must wake up and smell the coffee.
The social media world is understandably overwhelming!
Every second person uses social media to connect, inform and be informed. Over time, it has transformed into a go-to companion for all our know-hows and know-what’s. Companies realizing the wealth in this opportunity strike right at the heart of the platform to squeeze the best of its features to their interest.
At this point, it would be a horror to know that you haven’t registered your company as part of this revolution.
If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Get your marketing game up and running already!
If you have, before getting excited, work up if you’re performing your “A” game or are just in it because somebody told you “Social media is important”?
If your social media strategy for 2017 was terrific, take a second here to pat your back. But, wait! If you plan on sticking to the same agenda this year as well, take a step back.
Social media is constantly, and we mean constantly, evolving. Your pitch that worked today might be tossed down the drain tomorrow. And we don’t want that now, do we? Not a week goes by where there isn’t something new on the networks. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram — you name it, they’re all pushing to keep up with the newest trends and expecting you to run along. If you don’t adapt, your hard-earned reputation and brand image might all come tumbling downhill, and it only takes a matter of days.
Here are few tips to help you get past that fear and onto something solid for your social media initiatives in 2018:
Content is king –
Social media and content marketing go together like mac and cheese. One thing that hasn’t changed yet on social media is the need for quality content. And the right kind of content marketing is just what you need to get there. If you are sure your content will hit the right chord, publish it on social media, follow it up with more stories and posts. In order to attract more traffic, your content has to resonate well with your target audience. Understand your platform, understand your audience, and then device an awesome content marketing strategy to win them over — Basically, get the platform right and get the format right.
Very few things are as rewarding as seeing your content spread like wildfire across the web. Investing in high-quality content will get you there. Reach out for these points to ensure quality content development:
Audience engagement on social media doesn’t always depend on the quality of content!
It is often influenced by human psychology, which old people express as ‘peer pressure’ and new generation acronymize as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
Among the psychology lessons that digital markets can use in their strategy, ‘social proof’ or ‘social influence’ stands out most.
Listen to your audience –
Your content structure, format, style, and language might be brilliant. But, is that what your audience is looking for?
The only way you are going to know what your customers want is by listening to what they have to say. It’s important that you use your social media platforms as an extension of your customer service. More customers are going to voice their opinion on social media than via email or over the phone.
When you understand what it is that your customers expect from your industry, good content will flow out spontaneously and effortlessly.
But how do you get yourself heard in this noise-filled chaos that is social media?
Identify your competent audience and develop your own niche marketing. Here’s your stepping stone.
Your focus should not be on “what is the purpose?” Or “what is your cause?” Focus on the people creating the demand — why is the content you create valuable to them?Create content that will suit their needs, and push this through the right channels so it will reach people you want to reach.
Take Apple’s famous 1984 advert, for example. Even without a visual, most people will recall this advertisement — the one in which a woman throws a sledgehammer into the screen, shattering Big Brother’s image?
Within a single frame, Apple aligned itself with innovation, defiance and made itself iconic. And, nothing in the ad was about Apple’s computers, apart from the last few seconds.
Stay relevant to the platform –
The trick to establishing the right approach on social media in an intelligent way is to make sure the content’s tone is consistent with the platform you’re repurposing it for. A tweet that expends 280 characters on the introduction to a case study is going to get zero clicks or retweets, while a two line post on Medium is not going to get the attention it deserves.
No, shorter tweets that summarise a long blog post will not do the trick. It’s about creating content that will catch eyes on different platforms and come across as innovative and fresh each time.
Let’s take the example of case study X, that shows how your company’s actions helped Y client improve their business. Why not make an infographic that can be retweeted on Twitter, or shared on Facebook? What about making a gif for people to send to each other on Messenger? How about a longer blog post analysing the case study on Medium?
Measure EVERYTHING –
Don’t run the risk of just whisking away your money with zero profits or ROI. The success of a campaign might mean different things to different campaigns/brands. Understand the purpose of each of your campaigns and analyse accordingly — web traffic, lead conversion, sales conversion, etc. The data you collect here can be used to modify all your future campaigns.
Measuring the effectiveness of your social media campaigns is the easiest way of knowing what’s in and what’s not. If you’re using social media as a marketing tool (which is a very wise thing to do), you must regularly measure the results.
Allow us to give you the push you need for all your social media requirements.