LinkedIn Sponsored Content: The Beginner’s Guide (2019)

LinkedIn Sponsored Content

Whether you are a Digital Marketing specialist or an entrepreneur who wants to boost his business’ profitability, advertising in LinkedIn could be a great option to reach a more professionally-oriented and industry-specific audience. And although the social platform offers a variety of ways to promote your products or services, today we will focus exclusively on one of the most popular ones: LinkedIn Sponsored Content. So, without further ado, let’s jump right into it!

What is LinkedIn Sponsored Content?

Well, Sponsored Content on LinkedIn is pretty much self-explanatory – as you scroll down through your LinkedIn feed, you will see a lot of publications, among which some that are labelled as Promoted – and that’s basically what makes them different from organically – published posts – someone, a company or an individual, is paying for this specific content to reach someone like you. Why? I mean, there is really no need to explain why a business would make an ad – to make you buy a product, register for a program, attend an event…the opportunities are endless. Just what any other ad would do. 🙂

LinkedIn Sponsored Content

What are the benefits of LinkedIn Sponsored Content?

Now that we know that this type of digital advertising has pretty much the same purpose as practically any other advertising on the Internet (and in the real world), you are probably wondering – why is it better than, let’s say, Facebook or Instagram ads? And here comes the fun part.

Take a look at your personal LinkedIn profile. You probably have it completed with information such as:

  • Your area and sector/s of experience;
  • Years of experience;
  • The companies you worked at previously (and the company you are working at now)
  • Where you studied and the degree of education that you have;
  • Your licenses and certifications, as well as volunteer experience;
  • Your skills and endorsements;
  • The languages that you speak;
  • The projects you’ve worked on.

Now that we’ve summed this up, think about your profile from an advertiser’s perspective – how cool would it be to profile your perfect audience to such a detail that you know exactly where they studied, what is their current company, and what skills they have? Exactly. That’s what Sponsored Content does that other platforms don’t (and it’s pretty awesome, to be honest).

This type of advertising allows you to drilldown your ideal audience to such an extent that you describe them exactly the way you want them to be – and LinkedIn does the work for you. (Of course, with the limitations of the platform, as it is quite professionally-oriented and does not contain as personal data as Facebook does).

Your First Campaign – Setting an Audience

Once you’ve got your account all set up and running, you are ready to start creating your first campaign.

LinkedIn Campaign Manager

First, you will need to choose the name of your campaign and its objective – I usually select Website visits, but you can go with Lead Generation as well – however, with this option the Campaign Manager will ask you to use LinkedIn’s native lead generation form. Unless you don’t have any setup for registering conversions on your own website, this might be a good option, but if you do – then it’s not necessary at this first stage.

Tip: Select Website visits unless you are not currently registering conversions on your website through your own submission form. Remember – once you’ve selected an objective, you can’t change it later.

linkedin Audience language and country

The next step is to start defining your audience.

  • Country: choose your target country – you can select specific cities or regions in order to refine it better. If you want to target various geographical areas at once, I do recommend to choose 4-5 key countries instead of spreading your message to the whole wide world (unless you have unlimited budget, in which case, wanna share some? 🙂 just kidding). In my opinion, selecting by key cities is even better if you are on a more limited budget. You can also exclude users from non-desired locations.
  • Profile Language: this is very important as you can only choose one (so choose wisely). For example, if you want to advertise in Spain, do you want to reach a target who has their profile in English or in Spanish? This will depend on your case, but it’s something to keep in mind while refining your target.

Tip: Choose 4-5 key countries or up to 20 cities to better refine your audience and test it out. You can always change it later on if your current audiences it not bringing results.

Now that you’ve set up your desired countries and languages, it is time to play with the multiple possibilities to optimize your target.

linkedin audience criteria

This is where the fun begins, and these are some examples of possible targeting criteria:

  • Company Size – are you targeting people from big companies, SMEs, or autonomous professionals? You can filter by company size and even exclude options that don’t fit your target (at my company, we usually exclude autonomous professionals or small companies because of the peculiarities of our product). For example, you might not be interested in the option Myself Only if you are a B2B company, but of course it will depend on the case.

LinkedIn Company size criteria

  • Company Industries – are you interested (or not) in potential leads or clients from specific industries? Maybe you want to reach people in the FinTech sector? Unfortunately, LinkedIn doesn’t always have super specific sectors, but you can choose the most similar ones like Financial Services or Banking and see how they are performing (and of course, adjust if needed).

LinkedIn company industries

Tip: Don’t forget to exclude sectors that you are not interested in to ensure that you won’t be wasting your money on someone who isn’t your target.

  • Company Names – this targeting criteria gives you the option to target your audience by directly selecting company names – for example, you can combine it with job functions and target only Managers or Directors who work in, let´s say, Google or Microsoft. Keep in mind that these audiences are usually smaller as they are quite specific, but they can work really well in some  cases.

Tip: LinkedIn matches a company name with the corresponding Company Page of this organization in LinkedIn – if you want to target a specific business that doesn´t have a Company page in LinkedIn, you won´t be able to do that.

linkedin company names

  • Job Titles – another interesting option is to target by Job Titles, Job Functions or Job Seniorities – just keep in mind that these three options are mutually-exclusive as they are quite similar. If you need a more specific target I would recommend the option Job Titles, but if you want a wider audience you can either go by Job Functions or Job Seniorities – you can play with these options and select the one that best adapts to your needs.

Job Titles, Job Functions & Job Seniorities

Tip: Keep in mind that the targeting criteria for Years of Experience means years of experience in general, not in a specific sector, as it might be confusing sometimes. 

These are only a few examples for refining your audience, but of course you will need to perform constant A/B testing to see which ones work better for your business. If you have a small budget, you might need to go directly to the point with a more specific target.

However, if you are more flexible with your budget, I would recommend starting with a wider audience and once the campaign has collected enough data to draw conclusions, use the performance data to refine it:

LinkedIn analytics and performance data

Budget and Ad Format for LinkedIn Sponsored Content

The next step of the process is pretty straightforward. First, you will need to select an ad format – it could be a simple text ad, a single image ad, a carousel, a video…for the purpose of this post, we will choose a Single Image Ad.

LinkedIn Ad FormatNext, you will need to set your budget and a schedule for your campaign – you can either set a daily and a total budget, or set a daily budget and let the campaign run for an indefinite amount of time until it runs out of budget. You can also set a start and end date, which is especially recommendable if you are promoting an event or something that has an end date.

Tip: If you have a specific budget but no time pressure (for example, you are selling your product instead of promoting an event), I wouldn’t recommend setting an end date because if the campaign runs out of time before running out of budget, it will not serve its total budget (unless you don’t necessarily want to spend it whole). And don’t worry – actual daily spend may be up to 20% higher but the total budget will never be exceeded.

linkedin budget and schedule

Bid Type

Next, you will need to choose a bid type. If your budget is limited and you want a better control over its spending, choose Maximum CPC bid – it will let you select the highest bid that you are willing to pay for an ad click. If you have a bigger budget and want LinkedIn to optimize it for better conversions, select the Automated bid – just keep in mind that you might pay a higher amount of money for a single click than usual.

bid type linkedin ads

The maximum CPM Bid is for per thousand impressions of your ad, which is a possible option if you didn’t enable the LinkedIn Audience Network beforehand – a network of partner apps and websites where your ads might show.

linkedin audience network

Conversion Tracking

Next, you can set up conversion tracking – it is optional and helps you measure conversions coming from your LinkedIn ads. However, I will explain how to do that in one of my next posts as it is a little bit more complex.

conversion tracking linkedin

Creating a New Ad

Now, you are ready to create your first ad! Click on Create New Ad, give it a name (your audience won’t see it so it’s really just for you to locate it better).

However, your introductory text is important as it will be the message that your audience will see – keep it short, catchy, captivating, and don’t forget to include a Call-to-Action. Paste the URL of your landing page, upload the banner, give your ad a nice headline and you are ready to go! The majority of your users won’t see the description but you can always ad it as a nice finishing touch to your campaign.

linkedin sponsored contentn

Tip: Don’t forget to perform A/B testing with different banners, introductory texts and headlines to see which one works better!

Resultado de imagen para that's all folks

That’s all, folks! If you have any questions, you can find me on LinkedIn or send me an email at animitevabg@gmail.com

See you in my next post,

Ani

8 reasons to offer a FREE trial as a SaaS company

saas free trial

In a bid to acquire customers, many subscription-based companies offer a free trial as a part of their pricing strategy. However, despite the growing popularity of free trials as a customer acquisition tool in the SaaS industry, many experts believe that they could actually be dangerous for tech businesses. While I agree that every company is different and that this strategy might not suit every scenario equally, I truly believe in the power of offering a free trial as a SaaS company: and today, I will give you my 8 reasons why.

Image source: Rune Lillevang, Sketch

1. Reach more potential buyers

SaaS companies are known for offering high-tech, innovative products designed to impress; but in all honesty, customers don’t care how innovative your product is if they don’t see its value in action. In fact, they will probably not even bother to try it out if you are asking for a long-term commitment based on subscription without showing how it solves their problem or makes their life easier first.

Two weeks ago, my team and I went to pitch our newest tech product to one of our biggest clients (we are a B2B company). In the beginning of the pitch, they reacted with intense scepticism; the moment we showed it in action, we could see how their initial scepticism fell off their face to get substituted by excitement and questions on when we could start testing it out with them.

saas free trial - reach more buyers

Although my example does not involve a person purchasing a subscription-based service online, it only goes to show that no matter how amazing your product is, your potential buyers might never know if you don’t allow them to see it in action. And, considering that decision makers in the B2B industry don’t subscribe to a service before studying different alternatives, having to pay for a SaaS product before analyzing if its the best option for their particular needs will directly lead them to try other free-trial providers instead.

In the B2C industry, customers are even less prone to pay before trying out a product; and in all matters, they don’t have the time to try out every alternative that exists on the market. So naturally, they will start with the options that don’t cost them a cent to try. As a SaaS company, offering a customer-friendly free trial can definitely attract the attention to your services, helping you reach more potential buyers.

2. Reduce the fear of long-term commitment

saas free trial

 

As I previously mentioned, subscription-based solutions require a long-term commitment by nature, which is not always the case with regular products and services. Considering that many companies will only make a significant discount if you pay annually instead of monthly, customers are provided with two options: they either pay a higher fee just because they are not sure if they will like the product, or pay a lower monthly fee with the obligation to continue consuming the service for the next few months or years.

And, even when we talk about low monthly fees, users will have to pay the whole sum for an entire year at once: which is a lot of money for someone who hasn’t even tried your product yet.

long term committment buyer saas free trial

Thus said, offering a free trial as a SaaS company is a great way to reduce the fear for long-term commitment that might stop users from buying your subscription-based service.

3. Get valuable feedback

Many SaaS companies are sceptical about offering a free trial because they are afraid that users will not continue using their service once the trial is over. And that’s okay. In fact, silent customer behavior provides valuable feedback on whether your service actually met their needs for the right price. In fact, if your free trial strategy experiences extremely low conversion rates for a long period of time despite being well-designed for conversion, maybe the free trial is not the problem. Maybe it’s your service that is overpromising, or its real value is not perceived by users correctly.

free trial saas customers

As a conclusion, free trials can help you gather valuable data on customer behavior, and use it to identify and work on the weaknesses that are leading to high abandonment. To get even more feedback, enquire customers on their reason for not renovating subscription once the free trial is over. You might be surprised!

4. Keep it honest and transparent

A lot of companies claim that they are customer-centric while inviting customers to enter their payment details so they can be forced into an automatically-renovating subscription service once the free trial is over. Feel absolutely free to argue with me on this, but I don’t see how this practice is customer-centric – however, offering a free trial with a credit card is entirely new topic which I will cover in some of my next posts.

AppleHealth

From my experience as a Marketing specialist and a customer, no matter how many tricks you try to implement for getting users to subscribe to your services, nothing works better in the long term than keeping it honest and transparent throughout your whole strategy. For this reason, I believe that offering a free trial as a SaaS company without hidden tricks not only gives your users the chance to try out your products without being forced to a commitment, but also increases their trust in your company.

This will help you bild a powerful community of people who value your brand and products and want to spread the word because they actually believe that your services are making a difference. After all, being aggressive will probably have the exact opposite effect that you are looking for in your Marketing strategy – and they might cancel their subscription after a few months.

customer free trial

5. Provide first-hand experience for customers

Decision makers, especially in the B2B industry, put a lot of effort to discover different sources of information that will help them make an educated decision. Reviews, tutorials, comments, and experiences of other people are only some of the sources that give them a glimpse into what they are about to buy.

But offering a free trial for your SaaS product, you make it possible for customers to get a first-hand experience without having to rely exclusively on third-party opinions. After all, opinions from other people can often be misleading because every user perceives something differently, and not every customer or company has the same needs. Maybe your subscription-based service did not cover the needs of one user, but will be just perfect for another user – and it’s better to give them the option to try by themselves.

computer icon

6. Get qualified leads

When you are selling products in a physical establishment, let’s say headphones for example, your customer can easily visit the shop, try them on, feel the quality of the materials, and even put on some music to test the sound – BEFORE deciding on a purchase.

However, this process is not as easy when you are selling intangible software products. For this reason, free trials are a great way to provide some tangibility to help users make an educated decision – and the best part is that the people who signed up for a trial are already interested in your product. This means that you will not have to spend additional time to educate them on the characteristics and benefits of your solution.

iconset_round

 

7. Easy to implement

SaaS free trials are extremely easy to set up and implement into your current Marketing strategy. So, even if you conclude that a free trial doesn’t work for your business for whatever reason this might be, you haven’t wasted too much time nor efforts to test out the strategy, and you can easily eliminate it as well.

8. Get a higher conversion rate

Conversion rate is probably one of the most important metrics for every Marketing strategy – after all, it makes little sense to dedicate a lot of efforts to attract potential buyers to your web, if nobody ends up buying your service.

workspace-illustrations-outlane

Depending on the estimates, the conversion rate for SaaS free trials is between 15 and 25%, which may vary depending on the quality of your trial optimization, your niche, your ideal customer, and your company’s business model. According to SixteenVentures, some companies can even reach a conversion rate of 60%!

In what cases is NOT recommended to implement a free trial for your SaaS product?

As I already mentioned in the beginning, despite the amazing benefits of this strategy, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be companies or cases where it won´t work that well.

Free trials are great when your product is standarized. However, if your service is exclusively based on the needs of the customer and is customly tailored to fit them, offering a free trial will not be possible as the company (you) will have to invest a lot of time and efforts for technical integration for a user that might not convert at all. In these cases, you can consider offering a demo instead.

To sum it up, if your service:

  • Is custom-made for each client;
  • Requires a complex technical integration;
  • Involves upfront implementation work;
  • Is generally complex, or the user would need to much time to figure how it works,

You might consider going for a sandbox demo, a video, or a money-back guarantee strategy.

While we are on the topic of pricing and free trials, don´t forget to check my article Should B2B Companies Publish Their Prices? for additional information! If you liked this article, let me know in the comments below!

Note: All image sources are from sketchappsources.com.

Should B2B Companies Publish Their Prices? (+Quiz)

should b2b companies publish prices

Price transparency is not an easy decision. Many companies are inclined to believe that by publishing prices on their web, they are exposing themselves to competitors, and are even becoming more vulnerable in front of potential buyers. Concerns such as “What if my competitors use it against me?” or “What if users go away without converting?” are completely understandable, and in many cases – justified.

price transparency

Source: Piko Rizky Dwinanto

However, price transparency can also be a really powerful tool for establishing long-term relationships with your clients and gaining their absolute trust. Especially for B2B companies, where customers are fewer but bigger, this could represent an incredible opportunity.

And here comes the hard question: Should your B2B company publish its pricing? In what cases? Today, we will try to define the best (and the worst situations) to list prices on your web, and because you can’t make this decision by relying on only one factor, we will try to solve this enigma step by step.

In the end of the article you will find a Quiz with 10 questions designed to help you make this decision. Let’s go!

1. Is pricing your competitive advantage? 

While some companies go for a Differentiation strategy, a lot of businesses rely on a Low-price strategy to obtain a competitive advantage on the market. If you are competing on low prices instead of differentiation through unique products, you might want to publish your pricing – especially if you are confident that your prices are the lowest on the market for the same kind of product.

money icon competitor analysis

In this case, price transparency will benefit you not only because you are making a bold statement about your affordable products, but also because you make it easier for your customers to do their research and indeed discover that you are offering the lowest prices on the market.

2. Are you operating in a highly competitive sector?

This question is a little bit trickier than the previous one. Companies in highly competitive sectors usually struggle to find out a sustainable point of differentiation, and price transparency could be a double-edged sword. This means that you could either play safe and keep your prices behind the scenes, or you could bet on them as a key point of differentiation.

price

In extremely competitive sectors, listing your prices can sometimes make you vulnerable in front of your competitors, as they can easily see it and adjust their prices to make a better offer. However, if you are confident that your product has a good price-quality relationship and your Marketing message communicates well the value that you provide to your customers, go for it. 

If you still need to work on your price-quality relationship and your Marketing message, you might not want to publish your prices yet.

3. Have you set a standard pricing?

A lot of companies in the B2B industry don’t have a standard pricing and instead, they tailor it according to their customer’s needs, project requirements, and other factors. If your pricing is standard (for example, SaaS subscription-based plans) and it won’t differ from customer to customer, you might want to publish it on your web.

standard pricing saas b2b

Additionally, you can consider these two options:

  1. Publishing a a few standard plans that come with pre-defined pricing and features, and a Custom plan where you don’t specify pricing (such as the one in the image above), which will be negotiable depending on the needs of the company. This way, you can give some pricing orientation to your customers without revealing the full picture, and you still leave a room for negotiation.
  2. Stating an initial price but without setting an upper limit. This option helps users understand what is the minimum price for your service while keeping discussion open. For example, you can simply publish “Prices start at _____ EUR price”.

If your product is not well-defined and your pricing is not exactly standard, you can still consider the second option – or evaluate the possibility to design a standard plan for customers that share common needs while keeping a custom plan for the rest.

4. Do you have a longer sales cycle?

Some B2B companies have a long sales cycle before closing a deal, and their priority is to build long-term relationships with their clients where win-win is the perfect outcome. If you are one of these companies, and you would rather take the time to learn the specific needs of each customer instead of closing the deal as soon as possible, then don’t publish prices. 

price transparency customers

In these cases, listing prices usually doesn’t leave room for negotiation (unless you indicate otherwise), and you might distance potential customers who are willing to discuss your offering.

5. Is transparency a part of your company’s philosophy?

Many companies claim that being transparent with their customers and providers is one of their most important values, but fail to align these values with their actual Marketing message (whether unintentionally or not).

If your company’s philosophy is based on transparency, then you should align every single aspect of your business with it, including prices. By doing so, you will gain the trust of both your customers and providers – and they will be able to see that you remain honest with yourself and your values.

email marketing

6. Are you in a very niche market?

We already talked about highly competitive B2B industries, but what happens when your company is operating in a niche? What should be your pricing approach?

If you are selling products or services in a very niche B2B market, the chances are that you only have a few competitors, and your target customers are familiar with all of them. In such cases, publishing your prices could be rather dangerous because your competitors always have an eye on you – which might not be necessarily the case in other industries where competition is so high that you could remain unseen in the crowd.

However, in niche markets both competitors and customers know the important players really well, and every movement you make should be carefully planned. In case you decide to still list your prices, don’t forg

et to evaluate all the advantages and risks that come with this decision.

startup competitor analysis

7. Do you have many leads that are not in your target market?

For B2B companies looking for customers that handle large volume of operations, pricing could be a really effective filter for unqualified leads. For example, the company I work at offers a Payment Gateway to middle-sized companies and enterprises, and our pricing is adapted to bigger-sized businesses.

However, we have a lot of leads coming from different Marketing channels that don’t handle enough transactions to justify our costs for providing them with our service. In this case, listing your prices could be a great way to filter customers that are not within your target market.niche market b2b

8. Do you have more leads than you can handle?

We just talked about pricing as an effective filter for leads, and having more leads than you can actually handle is another situation where it might be better to list your prices.

Handling potential customers is very costly, and some small companies that don’t have a Sales Department (or it’s really small) can’t really afford to waste time on users that won’t convert or won’t bring enough revenue to cover all the costs. Especially in the B2B industry, where volumes are usually higher than B2C, but the sales cycle is much longer, it is very important to spend time in the most efficient way.

product announcement

For this reason, companies that aren’t able to handle a large number of low-quality leads could use pricing to set up an additional filter.

9. Is your price justified?

At first, this question might not make complete sense. You will say: “Of course my price is justified!” But let me explain what I mean.

I’ve worked in small startups that are conscious about their pricing, but they can’t lower it as much as their bigger-sized competitors because otherwise they won’t be able to cover costs. In cases like that, they know that their pricing is not justified, but they are still in the process of cutting costs before making their product more affordable.

award-icon-ayad.png

If this is your case, listing prices that are excessively high in comparison with the competition could be a dangerous move. Instead, try to leave a room for negotiation where you can directly talk to your customers in a face-to-face conversation. This way, you can show them in practice what is the added value that they are getting from your product – even if its at a higher price.

10. Do you care about SEO?

As Hubspot already talked about, listing prices is a golden Search Engine Optimization opportunity for B2B companies that want to position in front of their competitors. Terms and phrases that contain keywords such as “price” are excellent, because they usually have a high search volume and little to no competition as a result from companies not wanting to publish their prices.

By creating a compelling Landing Page and optimizing it for qualified traffic based on price, you will improve your positioning on Google, and you will effectively join the market conversation about pricing.

Should B2B companies publish their prices? – THE ANSWER

Now that we’ve discussed this question from various perspectives, it is time to give you an answer: as a digital B2B company, should you publish prices on your web?

The answer is: it depends. Yes, we all hate this answer, but it is true – it really depends on your Marketing strategy, business goals, priorities, competition, and industry, among hundreds of other factors.

quiz price

But don’t worry – to help you find out the best approach for your company, I’ve designed a short Quiz of 10 questions. The rules are simple: if you have more Yes than No, my recommendation is to list prices on your web. However, if you’ve answered No more times than you’ve marked Yes, then it might not be such a good idea.

Disclaimer: These questions and article are purely from my experience and perspective, so they are just a recommendation. I am by no means a Pricing specialist, and I don’t claim to know what exactly is perfect for you. This quiz is designed to give you some guidance, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other factors that might affect you!

should b2b companies list prices on their web? pricing strategy

Tip: If you are having trouble understanding a question, each question in the Quiz corresponds to the same number in the article, where it is explained in detail from my perspective. If you still have questions, let me know in the comments!

5 steps to conducting a Startup Competitor Analysis (+Templates)

startup competitor analysis

You think you know your competitors? Think again! In today’s article, I will test your ability to understand your strategic opponents – and show you how to perform a successful Startup competitor analysis so you can always be one step ahead.

During my experience as a Marketing professional, I have come to observe that a surprising number of companies underestimate the power of keeping an eye on the competition. In fact, I’ve had a Marketing director tell me that there is no need to track the performance of competitors because things are changing so quickly.

startup competitor analysis

And you know, he is right – they do change from one day to another – but the moment you lose track of the companies that fight for the same piece of the cake as you, you get into a really risky position of getting delusional and unrealistic with your achievements and weaknesses.

For this reason, I will share with you how to perform a Startup competitor analysis from 3 different perspectives: Marketing, Product, and Pricing. And because I don’t like generic advice, we will spice things up with my personal examples, and I will provide you with some simple, but effective templates that I like to make when I study the competition. Let’s go!

Step 1: Identify your competitors

competition analysis

First things first, you can’t really analyze your competitors if you haven’t identified who they are and where do they live on the Internet.

Let’s say that you are a startup that is working its way towards becoming a mobile bank. At this point of your development, you really want to know your competition to see what is your relative position on the market – and of course, to find a competitive advantage that will help you stand out.

Because your core business is identified by the keyword “mobile bank” (or another one, of course, this is just an example), let’s go ahead and type this keyword in Google.

mobile bank

There are my results for the keyword “mobile bank” – and, as you can see, I already have my first two competitors. But it gets a little bit more complicated than that:

  • When selecting your competitors, always take into account the country and the language you are typing in. Of course, if you are a business that sells digital products or servces, your main competitors can easily be from other countries that you are not operating in, so don’t necessarily exclude them – because they still might grab a piece of your market. 

keyword competition

  • First, select the keyword or keywords that describes your company the best – this will help you identify your direct competitors. Then, type this keyword in Google, and write down all companies that appear on the first few pages (as many as you consider relevant to your sector and business core).

google icon

  • To refine your search and make sure that you are not missing out on any competitors, use tools like KWFinder and AnswerThePublic to discover as many keywords as possible that get close to the main core of your business. Repeat the search and write down all companies that appear between the first results of the search engine. For example, in the case of the mobile bank, possible keywords that could reveal additional indirect competitors might be “digital banking” or “online bank”.

googl3

Now that you have a list of companies that are positioning on Google for the keywords that you want to be positioning for, you are ready to start analyzing them. At this point, you can either investigate all of them at the same time, or visit their websites and exclude the ones that don’t seem to be an important/direct competition – it is up to you!

Step 2: Analyzing competitors from a Product perspective

At this stage of our Startup competitor analysis, we will take a profound look at how companies can take advantage of understanding their competition’s features, products and functionalities.

startup competitor analysis

To explain it better, I did an example for a company that provides digital payment services to other businesses. Here is how I did it:

  1. On the first line of the Excel file, I put the names of the companies that I will be analyzing.
  2. Now, for the left-hand column, I visited the website of each competitor, and wrote down their main features, functionalities and products. Every time I visited a new website, I added more rows so I could have them all at a simple glance.
  3. Now comes the fun part – go ahead and add a √ symbol each time a company has the mentioned feature, and the Χ symbol if the company doesn’t have the mentioned feature.

To avoid visiting each website two times, I like to start with the first company, add all its products and features, add the √ symbol to each one of them (because I took them all from the first company’s website), then I move on to the second one, repeat the process, and so on. As a result, I end up with a simple and visual overview on how each company is doing on the Product/Tech side.

imac-icon-zarechnev

As you can see, I mark a row in orange if all companies happen to have the same exact feature or product, which helps me see that we shouldn’t rely on it if we want to obtain a competitive advantage. On the other hand, if I see that there is a feature that many companies have and we don’t, it’s usually a sign that we are missing out on something important.

And last but not least, if I see that there is a rare feature that only one company has out of all competitors, it could either be a sign of an important competitive advantage, or a feature that hasn’t proven its success yet. In either case, it is great to keep an eye on that.

I will leave a link to download the template in the end of the article, along with the others ones.

Step 3: Analyzing your competitors from a Marketing perspective

The next stage of our Startup competitor analysis is looking at it from a Marketing perspective with a couple of easy tables.

For this exercise, I’ve analyzed my competitors looking at their blog, social media, and frequency of publication, but you can go even further and investigate their SEO & SEM strategy.

competitor analysis blog

For a starter, I went ahead and visited the blogs of my companies. This is important for me because I want to know what efforts they are making to position themselves on search engines, and thus get more visibility in comparison to other  companies. In my case (this table has real results, I just removed the names of the companies), I was delighted to see that my competition isn’t doing much of SEO, except for Company 7.

I will not enter into much detail with this table, it is quite simple and self-explanatory, but it gives you a nice overview of your digital competitive environment in terms of organic positioning. You can add or remove as many columns as you consider relevant to your sector and business activity.

startup competitor analysis social media

The next table is the social media presence of my competitors. What channels are they using to gain visibility on the Internet? Are there channels that you should be doing as well, but you aren’t? What efforts would that imply to you as a small/medium startup company, and is it going to be worth the investment in time?

When researching my competitor’s social channels, I also like to pay attention to the engagement of their followers with their company to get a hint on their performance.

frequency of publication

Another aspect of your competitor’s social media presence is their frequency of publication. Are they actively trying to build an audience and engage with their followers by publishing frequently, or they are rather irregular? Which are their most active social channels?

As you can see from my example, almost all companies have some social presence, but their behavior differ from quite frequent to very irregular. In any case, it is always a great idea to keep an eye on your competitors in every aspect of their digital presence, and it doesn’t really take that much time as you would normally expect to.

Step 4: Analyzing your competitors from Pricing perspective

And last but not least, one of the most important aspects when it comes to Startup competitor analysis, and any competitor analysis in general, is Pricing.

Of course, not all companies have their prices transparent and published on their website. In this case and when I consider that a competitor is highly relevant, I contact them presenting myself as a potential customer interested in their product or service. Just a little tip: if it’s possible, do not contact companies from a gmail account, especially if you are in the B2B sector – it doesn’t seem very legitimate, and you might not receive a response at all. Whenever possible, try to reach them out using a professional email – even if that means asking a friend to do that for you as a favor. 🙂

money icon competitor analysis

Now, to the pricing. In the startup world and especially in SaaS companies, pricing is usually based on a Subscription model or/and a Pay-per-Use model. In our case, we will focus on Subscription models so you can get a general perspective on how to build your Excel.

Let’s imagine that you are a company that sells communication services, such as phone support software and apps for call centers. Your Pricing sheet might look something like this:

price sheet competitor analysis

In Subscription models, many companies will make you a discount if you are paying annually, which is a great strategy to ensure that you will stay as a long-term client. For this reason, it is important to specify if prices vary depending on whether you will be paying monthly or annually.

Additionally, I’ve added other things relevant to the price that will help us understand the pricing differences from company to company. Information like the features that come with each plan, the minimum/maximum number of users, and whether there is a free trial or not are a great way to put yourself in the mind of the customer and try to make an informed decision from his perspective.

customer

We all know that price is not the only element to consider when making a decision. Which competitor gives the better product in relationship with the price? Who provides the highest value? Is there a free trial to reduce pressure and give the customer a taste of the service? You need to be asking yourself these questions to better understand your current position on the market.

Step 5: Conclusions from your Startup competitor analysis

Now that you’ve conducted your investigation, it is time to make the final conclusions and see where you are at the exact current moment. Maybe you will find out that you are doing better than what you expected. Maybe you will find out that you are falling behind your competition in many (or in the most important) aspects.

computer

No matter what you discovered, be honest with yourself. Are you growing at the same pace as your competitors? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Where is it that you want to be? Take your time to make the right conclusions, and work smarter to become better every day.

And, as promised, here are the free templates that you can download.  If you are having troubles with the link or have any questions, send me an email at animitevabg@gmail.com

I hope you liked the article! Stay tuned for more!

7 niche B2B eBooks and resources worth reading

7 niche B2B eBooks and resources worth reading

E-books are one of the most efficient ways for generating qualified leads and obtaining valuable data that will help you develop a great Inbound Marketing strategy. However, writing an e-book for a B2B audience is not the same as capturing B2C leads, and it requires an additional effort for catching the attention of your potential client. In this article, I will show you 7 gorgeous B2B eBooks with a great content and stunning design that will inspire you to write your own.

Image result for ebook gif

Source: Romain Gauthier
  1. Customer Engagement from Emotion to Involvement

b2b ebooks aircall

Company: AirCall

About AirCall: AirCall provides software that lets companies create and manage cloud-based phone systems without the need for unnecessary hardware or phone desk. Its features include a Virtual Call Center, Voicemail, Call queueing, and Interactive Voice Response, among others.

E-book: This gorgeous eBook explores the importance of customer engagement and provides valuable insights on the techniques that B2B businesses can apply in order to geniuinely connect with their customers. It includes practical examples and plenty of additional sources to help you build a successful customer engagement strategy.

Perfect for: Call Centers

Length: 24 pages

Download link: click here to download this eBook.

2. Artifical Intelligence & Social Media

b2b ebook artificial intelligence and social media

Company: MakeMeReach

About MakeMeReach: MakeMeReach is a social advertising platform created with the purpose of helping brands and advertisers create, manage, and optimize their marketing campaigns on social channels.

E-book: The Artificial Intelligence & Social Media Guide is among the niche B2B eBooks that explore the impact of Artificial Intelligence on social media, and the way new technologies make it possible for brands to communicate with consumers on a much more personal level. It explains the 4 major social spheres impacted by AI: Social Advertising, Customer Service, Content Creation & Optimization, and Consumer & Competitive Intelligence.

Perfect for: Marketing agencies

Length: 25 pages

Download link: click here to download this eBook.

3. The Beginner’s Guide to Link Building

link-building-guide

Image source: mangools.com

Company: Moz

About Moz: Moz is a Software-as-a-Service company dedicated to the development of Inbound Marketing and Marketing Analytics solutions. Their SEO tools include keyword research, link building, and page optimization insights, among others.

E-book: The Beginner’s Guide to Link Building is a comprehensive guide to link building for both beginners and Marketing specialists. It takes the reader through the whole link building process including important metrics, tactics, as well as advanced tips and tricks. It doesn’t require download and can be read directly on the website of Moz.

Perfect for: all types of companies developing a Digital Marketing strategy

Length: 89 pages

Download link: click here to download this eBook.

4. The Sophisticated Marketer 

linkedin sophisticated marketer

Company: LinkedIn

About LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the most popular social network service designed for professional networking, with more than 500 million members across 200 countries. The platform is available in 24 languages.

E-magazine: The Sophisticated Marketer is an electronic magazine launched recently by LinkedIn with the idea to help B2B Marketers build better strategies and get insights from the most trending news and topics. You can also order a free print copy if you request it within a specific time period (they specify it with each new issue).

Perfect for: B2B Marketers

Length: 72 pages

Download link: click here to read this e-magazine.

5. Once Upon a Digital Time

b2b ebooks linkedin

Company: LinkedIn

About LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the most popular social media platform designed for professional networking and employment, with 500+ million members across 200 countries.

E-book: Another one of the niche B2B eBooks produced by LinkedIn is Once Upon a Digital Time, a helpful guide with fun illustrations that gives a spicy twist to modern-day storytelling. It is designed to make companies stand out with their Content Marketing strategy in a world where everyone is trying to reach their audience through storytelling.

Perfect for: All companies that want to tell their story to the world

Length: 33 pages

Download link: click here to download this eBook.

6. The Anatomy of a Payment Gateway

the Anatomy of a Payment Gateway

Company: MYMOID

About MYMOID: MYMOID offers innovative payment solutions, carefully designed and crafted with the mission of providing the ultimate payment experience to companies and their customers.

E-book: The Anatomy of a Payment Gateway explores the key aspects behind the revolution of digital payments, and the concept of Gateways as the connecting thread between companies and customers. It explains the role of the gateway within the payment network, the benefits it provides to businesses, and the cases of use among verticals.

Perfect for: B2B companies in verticals such as Microlending, Travel & Hospitality, E-commerce and Call Centers.

Length: 20 pages

Download link: click here to download this eBook (it will be available from 01.06.2018)

7. Online Payments in the Dating Industryonline payments in the dating industry

Company: SecurionPay

About SecurionPay: SecurionPay is a company that provides payment processing infrastructures to offer payment services for online merchants.

E-book: Online Payments in the Dating Industry is a niche-specific eBook designed to help dating websites choose a date payment provider, and show them the most efficient techniques to improve conversion rate and build long-term relationships with their audience.

Perfect for: Dating websites

Length: 26 pages

Download link: click here to download this eBook.

If you liked this article, you might also like:

Of FinTech and Banks: what is the future for financial services?

fintech and banks

FinTech and Banks – friends or foes?

During the last few years, companies in the FinTech sector have been consolidating their position as leaders in the digital disruption of the financial industry. For many, their strongly technological core and the innovation behind their solutions pose a fatal threat to traditional banking. For others, the success of FinTech companies will depend on their collaboration with traditional financial institutions as strategic partners during all stages of their digital transformation.

Considering both perspectives, it is inevitable to ask ourselves a few questions concerning the impact of FinTech companies over traditional banking, and the role of banks in the development of financial services based on technology. Will both be able to co-exist in harmony? Is there a real threat for banks? Is collaboration going to be the only hope for success for businesses in the FinTech sector?

The PSD2 Directive opens up new opportunities for FinTech companies in Europe

In January 2018, the European Union implemented PSD2 (Revised Payment Service Directive), a new regulation that will allow companies to connect with banks’ API in order to develop new financial services without the need to invest in heavy banking infrastructure.

With this Directive, the European Union aims to open up more opportunities for new competitors on the market, encouraging competition with the purpose of stimulating the development of faster, more affordable, and more accessible services for users.

The changes introduced by the Directive, among with the advances towards the concept of Open Banking, open up new collaboration opportunities between FinTech and banks. And although a lot of time will probably pass until the effects of the new regulation start to take place in the long run, the efforts of the European Union towards the creation of a single European ecosystem collectively point to the possibility of a harmonic co-existence between both protagonists in the financial industry.

Do FinTech companies pose a threat to banks?

The Financial Technology sector is undoubtedly on the rise: according to CBInsights, VC-backed FinTech companies raised more than $5.4 billion across 323 deals globally only in the first quarter of 2018, with over 26 companies reaching a Startup Unicon valuation (Check out my latest article on Revolut becoming the latest unicorn in the FinTech sector).

However, despite the immense growth of FinTech companies and the pressure that they exert on financial institutions, it seems highly unlikely that they will destroy traditional banking. On one hand, the Financial Technology sector is still quite small; if FinTech companies operate in billions of dollars, banks make operations in trillions, and have a higher capacity to achieve economies of scale. On another hand, practically all financial services depend on bank accounts to be able to function.

Even so, it is evident that the threat is existent and quite strong, mainly because financially-technological services are generally capable of responding better to the needs of the customers than traditional banking.

Will FinTech companies be able to survive without collaboration with banks?

According to an article of the Digital Journal based on the World FinTech Report 2018 of CapGemini, FinTech companies will be unable to survive without collaborating with traditional banks to provide a stable infrastructure that responds adequately to the changing needs of consumers.

As the same report states, the services developed by both FinTech companies and banks are rather complementary than mutually exclusive, considering the fact that they provide different layers of value to end-consumers. The driving force of newly emerged companies in the sector is based on their capacity to develop agile and innovative solutions with technology as their main focus.

On another hand, bank infrastructure, access to capital, and regulatory ability provide a competitive advantage for banks, which allows them to develop economies of scale that are difficult to replicate by other companies in the sector.

Conclusions

With the implementation of the new banking directive PSD2 this year, it seems evident that, at least in the European market, the main focus will be encouraging the collaboration between FinTech and banks via open APIs that make the development of new services over an existent banking infrastructure possible.

However, the FinTech sector is still in the phase of continuous growth, and there will be many more questions to answer before reaching conclusions of any extreme. Until now, these startups have managed to capture a huge and ever-growing market share globally, without depending heavily on traditional banking.

So what stops them from continuing their growth the same way they started it?

How to write an effective Product Announcement (Startup Edition)

product announcement3

Writing an effective product announcement is just as important as the product itself. Your customers can’t really make a good use of your new functionalities if they never find out about them.

This is especially true for Startups. In a company where technological advances are the core of its business purpose, new products and features are not only harder to market, but they can also go unnoticed if customers are too focused on the ones that they are already using.

product announcement

In this article, we will see some tips on how to write an effective Product Announcement, as well as some gorgeous examples of companies that are already killing it. Let’s go!

Tip 1: Know your target

Before you start designing the announcement of your new product, it is important to define who is it that you are addressing. In Startup companies that sell digital services or work on a subscription basis, we find two different figures: the Subscriber, and the Customer.

subscriber and customer

Obviously, not all customers are subscribers, and not all subscribers are customers. When we talk about subscribers, we usually mean users who have signed up to receive our e-mail newsletters with a certain frequency.

While they are not necessarily customers, they are genuinely interested in your content, and they could convert into potential clients if you play your cards right.

For this reason, it is important that you prepare a product announcement for them as well – this way, you can not only update them on new services or features that may interest them, but they can also see that you are constantly working to improve your clients’ experience.

At my current company, every time we work on an e-mail campaign for a product launch, we make two different versions: one for subscribers, and one for clients. This way, we make sure that everyone is informed about the latest updates in our portfolio in the best way that fits their profile.

computer icon

At this step, you need to define your target, and decide for yourself if your new product should be announced exclusively to customers, or to your subscribers as well. In the majority of cases, I do recommend that you make two different versions (or more), and try to reach your audience in a way that’s personalized to their profile.

Tip 2: Write a compelling Subject Line

Writing a compelling Subject Line is key for catching the eye of an e-mail-saturated user that receives an uncomfortable amount of e-mails daily.

However, avoid falling into the temptation of writing a clickbait subject line that will make the user click on your e-mail, and then get disappointed because he was expecting something more exciting.

Many websites give suggestions for catchy Subject Line such as:

  • “We need to talk”;
  • “I called. You didn’t answer”;
  • “I’m pulling the plug…”

email marketing

Seriously, just don’t – having a high Click-Through-Rate doesn’t mean anything if you fail to engage your users or don’t meet their expectations. Instead, try to get straight to the point. Here are some good examples of a product announcement:

  • “Design your next iOS App”;
  • “Introducing the Wireless Charging Pad”;
  • “Apple Watch Series 2 is here!”

Simple and straight to the point – just keep it classy! Also, don’t forget to check my article for other E-mail Marketing Don’ts. (no, it’s not donuts…I wish it was).

Tip 3: Make it visual, and keep it simple

newsletter template

One of the biggest mistake I see when launching an email campaign for a product announcement (or for any other purpose) is the tendency to saturate it with text.

Yes, I know that it’s tempting to share your whole pack of exciting new features with the whole world, but remember: your email campaign is just a sample of your work. It is not where your whole content is supposed to go.

In fact, it is only supposed to catch your user’s attention and attract him to click on your Call-to-Action button because he already wants more of you and your new product. Once the CTA has taken him to that magical place, it is then when you provide him with the hot details – whether it is your blog or a landing page.

ab-test-cta-04

 (not real buttons, nothing will really happen if you click them)

You see, an e-mail campaign is a great way to filter your potential clients from users who are not really interested in your products. After all, small but qualified traffic is always better than a high number of web visitors that are only there because you clickbaited them.

Generally speaking, focus on creating a simple and elegant, but visually attractive campaign without saturating it with too much text.

Tip 4: Call-to-Action

The one thing that should never be missing from an email campaign, no matter it’s purpose, is the famous Call-to-Action button. Just imagine that someone invites you for a meeting, and doesn’t pronounce a word once you gather in the same room.

cta

This is what an email campaign without a CTA looks like – a dry communication with your users without a purpose. Every email that you send must have a purpose – what do you want your customers to do once they’ve clicked? Visit your blog, sign up for a free trial, or try out a new functionality? This is what a CTA is all about – and, as always, keep it simple and straight to the point.

Are you ready for the fun part? That’s right:

Product Announcement Examples

product announcement example

This gorgeous email campaign by PostCards does a great job on catching the eye of the user with a beautiful UX design, and a couple of powerful sentences that explain the new product without getting lost in unnecessary details. I like it – it’s really visual, and yet very clear. I would personally make the title a little bit bigger to put an emphasis that it’s going to be a new product/feature.

sketch

Timeline is another company that is doing a great job at launching a compelling product announcement campaign for its new Sketch plugin. In just one sentence, they manage to to explain the essence of their product, its purpose, and some of the features it comes with. Nice!

in-app surveys

The Dutch company Usabilla successfully manages to announce the launch of their new targeted in-app surveys with a clear message and striking visuals. The video is a great choice to introduce the new features of the product without saturating the template with too much text. And the emojis – well, they might not be everyone’s taste, but they certainly add some nice color! The CTA is on point.

product announcement example

This is one of my favourite email campaigns so far – stunning, very informative, really creative, and yet simple and elegant. There are two Call-to-Action buttons strategically positioned in the beginning (for those who don’t want to look at the details right away) and in the end (for those who need even more information than the one they just read).

These email campaigns were taken from www.reallygoodemails.com

If you want to see more examples, just visit their website and take a look at all of their gorgeous email campaigns!

The FinTech startup Revolut is now officially a Unicorn

revolut fintech startup unicorn

Revolut, one of the fastest-growing FinTech companies in the field of mobile banking, officially became a startup unicorn after raising $250 million in a Series C investment round led by the venture capital firm DST Global.

Europe’s fastest-growing startup jumped from a $350 million to a 1.7 billion dollar valuation in only six months, overpassing the Estonian-based FinTech company Transferwise to become one of the most valuable unicorns on the market. Since its last funding round just six months ago, Revolut has managed to double its user base to more than two million cardholders across Europe.

Revolut launched to the public in July 2015 as a digital banking alternative with the purpose of “building a fair and frictionless platform to use and manage money around the world”. Just 3 years later, the UK-based startup became one of the 237 Unicorn companies to make the golden list of CB Insights with a total cumulative valuation of the mind-blowing $810 billion. The list is currently lead by Uber ($68 billion), Didi Chuxing ($56 billion), Xiaomi ($46 billion), China Internet Plus Holding ($30 billion), and Airbnb ($29.3 billion).

What is a Unicorn Startup?

unicorn startup

If you are not familiar with the term, a Unicorn startup is basically a company that has achieved a valuation of over 1 billion dollars. Startups are generally evaluated differently from regular companies, taking into account growth opportunities and expected development in the long run. For more information on the topic, I recommend you to read my article What is a Unicorn Startup?

About Revolut

Revolut is a FinTech company in the field of digital banking that includes a pre-paid debit card, currency exchange, and peer-to-peer payments. During the last few months, the startup has been adding additional services including insurance, cryptocurrency trading, vaults, and current accounts, among others.

revolut beyond banking

Unicorn Announcement by E-mail

From a Marketing perspective, it is worth mentioning that the new member of the Unicorn Startup community made an exciting announcement to thanks its members and e-mail subscribers for their continuous support. The company also used the opportunity to announce that they will be launching very soon in the United States, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.

In addition, Revolut announced that they will release new functionalities in the upcoming months including Cryptocurrencies Ripple (XPR), Bitcoing Cash (BCH), and Analytics features.

Does Twiends help you get Twitter followers? (my experience)

twiends twitter

Let’s be honest: we love looking for shortcuts to make things happen overnight. When I started working at my current company, I was assigned the task to manage our Twitter account, and because I had never consistently managed a corporate Twitter account till then, I was tempted to look for a tool that could help me out. So, I stumbled across Twiends – one of the many tools to get Twitter followers that actually looked somewhat legitimate. And I decided to give it a try.

twiends

Now, let me explain how Twiends works. Basically, you sign up with your Twitter account, write down your interests (usually associated with your company’s activity or sector), and start working your way towards getting more followers.

Twiends works reciprocally

On the left side, you have recommended Twitter users with a Twiends account. When you choose to follow them, other people who see you among their recommended Twitter users can choose to follow you as well. If you don’t follow anyone, you will probably not be followed either, because Twiends will choose to not show you on its wall as a consequence of  your inactivity.

twiends get twitter followers

That’s about it – and on theory, it sounds great. You follow a few people, others follow you, you probably share some common interests, and everyone is happy. You grow a good amount of Twitter followers that doesn’t seem fake.

Needless to say, I was excited! And things got even better – soon after I started using Twiends, I found that you could even pay to get featured without necessarily following anyone yourself. Which naturally translated into getting more followers without growing your numbers in Following.

I didn’t really paid for any plan (10 EUR per week didn’t sound reasonable to me, and my company would never pay for things like that), but I decided to try the one-week trial for 1 EUR (be careful, it renews automatically) on my personal Twitter. I gained 52 new followers for not doing any effort!

twitter analytics new followers

Now, here comes the not-so-fun part. After my 1 EUR trial ended and I stopped making any efforts to follow random people on Twiends, I started losing followers. Consistently.

Because I stopped following other Twitter users on Twiends, I not only wasn’t getting new followers anymore, but I was losing the ones I had obtained beforehand. So, I started asking myself: are these people even real? I doubted that 2-3 people every day just randomly decided to unfollow me.

And this didn’t only happen on my personal blog’s Twitter account. Because I also made a Twiends account for my company, I noticed the absolutely same trend of consistently losing followers once I stopped following on my behalf.

And yes, losing 8-15 followers per month might not seem like a disastrous number, but it definitely made me realize that I have entered a vicious cycle that will never end without consequences. At this point, I had to either continue getting random Twitter followers in exchange for following other random Twitter users, or I had to stop doing this, and lose a significant amount of subscribers. Which made my pathetic attempt to get Twitter followers the easy way absolutely useless. It was simply not a sustainable practice.

Here’s why you shouldn’t use Twiends to get Twitter followers:

Low quality

In the social media world, numbers only matter so you can show off in front of others. In real life, the number of people who subscribed to you on Twitter doesn’t make you money, doesn’t bring you qualified traffic, and doesn’t make users engaged with your brand. It is completely useless.

Twiends doesn’t bring you qualified leads. Yes, maybe you matched interests because you wrote FinTech and this other random person also wrote FinTech in his profile, but that’s about it. The majority of accounts on Twiends might not even be real people. So what’s the point of wasting time that you could spend elsewhere?

To get Twitter followers, you will need much more than using a non-reliable shortcut. It is a long-term strategy which, if done right, will bring actual qualified traffic to your website.

Vicious Cycle

As I already explained, the moment you start using Twiends, you will not be able to get off the platform without its consequences. So you will either continue generating useless following that doesn’t engage with your content, or you will experience a rapid, demotivating decline in followers.

No engagement

Out of 10 people that followed you on Twiends, maybe one of them will try to engage with your content. Maybe. Or maybe not. So, it makes no sense to get followers if they won’t like, share, or comment on your posts. They will not bring you absolutely any value.

Annoying spam

Another drawback from getting Twitter followers using Twiends are spam messages. And yes, they haven’t been that frequent on my account (as you can see below), but they have been annoying enough to remind me of my bad decisions on social media. After all, if people are only following you so that they can spam you with unnecessary (and potentially dangerous links), what’s the point?

spam twiends

I am not a huge fan of Twitter – in fact, I haven’t really see any efficiency for B2B companies (and I have never worked for a B2C one), but I still think that it is a long-term strategy that should be thought strategically in order to obtain maximum efficiency.

After all, your Marketing efforts should be designed to generate quality traffic to your website, and anything that’s not bringing value isn’t really worth your time, efforts, and even money. Even in life, shortcuts rarely work – and even if they do, they usually have their peculiarities or consequences that might not be worth the efforts in the end.

So, to answer your question “Does Twiends work to get Twitter followers?”, my answer is:

NO. It doesn’t. So don’t waste your time on it, and instead try to find a more sustainable strategy to grow your Twitter following. You might take a longer time to generate great results, but is it really worth it being in a hurry? Not really.

If you have used Twiends and have a different opinion, let me know in the comments!

3 Startup Marketing Challenges (and how to overcome them)

The startup world is full of infinite challenges. Financial management struggles, budget limitations, insufficient human resources, dynamic markets – and, if this wasn’t enough, the Marketing department isn’t falling behind either. As a Marketing professional with almost 2 years of experience in various startups, I wanted to share the startup Marketing challenges that I’ve faced during my work at different technological companies.

And although 2 years may not sound as much, I think that I’ve learned some really valuable lessons that might be helpful for future Marketers – so why not share them?

Image result for rocket gif

Image Source: giphy.com

Startup Marketing Challenge 1: Racing with Technology

Technology is the main reason for the existence of startups. Every day, hundreds of tech teams work really hard to deliver the most innovative solutions on the market.

As a Marketer, this means that you will work in a sector that is experiencing minor and major changes daily. It is a constant race to keep up with the speed of technology. Every day, you have to know exactly what happens in the sector, and be capable of responding immediately in the most adequate way. What do I mean? Well, let me give you a couple of examples.

cloud-based solutions startups

I currently work at two different startups – one that provides digital payment solutions for processing online transactions, and one that develops cloud-based SaaS applications and services, including call recording and virtual fax.

A couple of days ago, I was browsing through the news for call recording, and I stumbled across an article that sounded much like “It will no longer be possible to record calls on Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+“. “Hey”, I thought to myself, “it might be a good idea to send it to my manager, sounds like a good topic to write for our blog”. So I did that.

samsung galaxy s9 call recording

A few minutes later, he came to me with a real excitement in his eyes, saying “Do you realize that this could be a great opportunity for us? If Samsung disables call recording functions on S9/S9+ and other Samsung devices, we could offer our solutions to companies that need to comply with regulations like MiFID II and GDPR!

Well, despite the fact that I found the article, I wasn’t able to see the opportunity before he said it to me! But now I completely understood.

Do you see what I mean? 

Opportunities can appear out of nowhere, and if you aren’t able to identify them and seize them as fast as possible, somebody else will. Staying up-to-date with market and technological changes will be key to your success in solving startup Marketing challenges.

light bulb animation

Source: bestanimations.com

Another example that show how fast things can change came from my other company, a leading provider in digital payment solutions for enterprises in the Spanish industry.

When I joined the company only 8 months ago, our Marketing strategy was perfectly aligned with the team’s technological advances. However, only a couple of months later, we introduced so many changes into our portfolio of services, that we could now position as a payment gateway – something we weren’t able to do before.

As a result, only a few months later, we had to re-write and re-focus our whole Marketing strategy almost from scratch, because it wasn’t aligning with the product any longer.

Conclusions – how can you solve this challenge?

As a Marketer in the startup industry, you will discover that not only your company’s direction and vision might be changing constantly along the way, but the market as well will be introducing new opportunities and threats all the time.

Image result for challenges icon

So, how can we solve these challenges? My personal advice:

  • Stay aligned with your IT department on a daily basis. Make sure that you always know what are they working on, what will be their next projects, and when are they going to launch new products. If possible, organize daily or weekly meetings to make sure that your Marketing strategy is perfectly aligned with your company’s product development. Even if you work for the Marketing department and you feel that technology doesn’t concern you, it does; you need to know where the whole company is going. All the time.
  • Read, read, and read – reading news, books, and articles will not only enrich your knowledge in the industry, but will also help you discover new trends and opportunities that might have a huge positive impact on your company.

Startup Marketing Challenge 2: Budget limitations

One of the biggest startup Marketing challenges comes from budget limitations. You need to decide – what investments should I make in Marketing efforts? Should I focus more on bringing organic traffic, or going directly for paid traffic to attract more customers, as it doesn’t take as long?

Of course, this will depend on your company.  I don’t know how it is for B2C businesses because I’ve never worked for one, but I can share with you some advice on Digital Marketing for B2B companies:

Conclusions – how can you solve this challenge?

social media - startup marketing challenges

Social Media

When it comes to social media, channels such as Facebook and Instagram haven’t proven to be efficient for B2B companies. From my experience, investing in Facebook advertising won’t bring you qualified traffic that might convert to potential buyers. Why? Because when users go to Facebook, they want to see videos of cats instead of ads. So, even if Facebook advertising is not expensive, it might be more worthy switching this budget to LinkedIn or even better – AdWords.

If you have budget for LinkedIn, that’s great – but if you don’t, don’t worry about it. Although LinkedIn is the perfect platform for B2B Marketing, it can be much more expensive than other social media channels, and the results might not be that amazing – users on LinkedIn aren’t particularly fond of ads either.

AdWords

If you are a Marketing department on a budget, my personal advice is to dedicate a good part of your budget to AdWords. Why? As opposed to Facebook, when users search on Google, they actually want to see ads more than in any other occassion – if you are searching for the best beach resort in Europe for the cheapest price, wouldn’t you want to receive some nice offers? I would!

adwords startups

Source: Search Engine Land

For more info on Search Engine Marketing, make sure to read my post Introduction to SEM for beginners!

Search Engine Optimization 

Another important part of your budget should be for bringing organic traffic – although it’s a long-term strategy and won’t bring you immediate results, you will notice a great increase in traffic after a few months of hard work. Trust me, it will be worth it!

And yes, although you don’t pay anything directly for organic traffic, you still consume Marketing budget from employee’s perspective, because it takes time to generate quality content. However, it is a time well-spent.

For more information on Search Engine Optimization, visit my post Introduction to SEO for beginners!

search engine optimization

Free tools

As a Marketer on a budget, any free tools that can save time and improve your Marketing strategy should be welcome, right? Here are a few of my recommendations:

  • Slack – a great tool that lets you create a digital workspace for your team where you can chat and exchange files. It comes with a free plan, and it saves a lot of time from unnecessary e-mails!
  • Yandex Metrica – a completely free alternative to Google Analytics that gives you analytics, records user sessions, and provides you with useful heatmaps.
  • Asana – a fun tool that lets you track and manage your team projects efficiently. It has saved many hours for my team!

For more tools, check out my post 8 awesome must-have tools for B2B startups.

Startup Marketing Challenge 3: Derailing from your Marketing objectives

As opposed to a multinational company, being a part of the Marketing department in a startup means that you might have to assume different responsibilities, including sales,  PR, advertising, customer support, onboarding, and sometimes even human resources (it has happened to me as well).

This variety of responsibilities means that you can easily lose track of your Marketing objectives while trying to perform other roles in the company. And that’s okay –  as long as you are conscious of it, and get back on track as soon as possible.

Conclusions – how can you solve this challenge?

There are a few things that can help you successfuly overcome this startup Marketing challenge:

Organize yourself 

I already mentioned the tool Asana, but I really recommend it as it has been really helpful for my company to keep all things neat and organized (and no, I am not getting paid for that). The biggest benefit from using Asana is that you can set up due dates, assign tasks, and know how projects are advancing at each moment. 

With this tool, you can easily see if you’ve missed the due date, making you conscious on how well you’re doing with project organization. There are other tools on the market as well, and I definitely recommend to use such software to keep a better track of your Marketing and Business objectives.

asana solving startup marketing challenges

Store your documents on the cloud

If you are still searching through thousands of e-mails to find important documents, you might be losing a lot of valuable time that you could dedicate on better things. By storing and organizing everything on the cloud, you can access it from anywhere, at any time – and much faster.

I’ve only used Google Drive so far, but if you want to keep your documents as private as possible, you can give Spider Oak a try as well (I haven’t tried it myself).

Automate yout Marketing processes

Nowadays, there are various tools, services and platforms that can help you automate a lot of Marketing processes, saving you plenty of time along the way. Below, I will give you a list of the tools that I’ve used so far, but you can explore other options as well:

  • MailChimp – probably the most popular tool for automating E-mail Marketing. It is very flexible, and comes with a free plan, which is great news for startups on a budget.
  • HubSpot – Hubspot has a lot of tools for automation of CRM, Sales, and Marketing processes. The company offers free plans for the majority of its services, and also plenty of free Marketing resources.
  • Hootsuite – this Social Media Marketing tool lets you manage and monitor all your social channels at once. It comes with a free plan as well.

Startups face a lot of Marketing challenges, but luckily, there are fun and creative ways to overcome them. These were my recommendations and suggestions – feel free to express your opinion in the comments!