Over the years I have had some experience in working with early stage startups and advising them on their digital marketing approach. I usually start, not by talking tactical executions but by talking about key digital marketing related principles that startups should be across.

My recommendations to startup founders are as follows:

1.    Know your niche 2.    Optimise your website 3.    Measure everything 4.    Talk to customers 5.    Build a database 6.    Be focused

Whilst I think all of these are important foundation steps in preparing for digital marketing activities, when I sit down with newly formed companies most of them seem to be stuck at the same step. This step is #2 ‘optimise your website’ and I’ll therefore focus on that point in this article.

When I talk about a startup optimising their website, I am referring to making sure your website messaging is clear, that it’s written for your target audience and that it has a deliberate purpose and is focused on a next step.

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

Clear website messaging 

This is about the website being really clear and to the point about what your startup actually does. I found that most founders are able to tell me in a succinct phrase what they do when we are speaking, but their websites include generic headings using words like “the perfect solution for your business” or “the platform you have been waiting for”. They don’t always clearly portray what they do and the benefits to the audience aren’t communicated in a way that makes it easy to understand or encourages buy-in. 

This is easy to both assess and fix. Make sure you don’t simply write content for the website and then walk away. Get other people to read it, especially people who don’t know what you do and see if they are clear on your offering. Get your prospective clients to read it and check if it makes sense to them and furthermore, ask them if they have unanswered questions after reading your content, and if so, what they are.

A potential customer needs to be able to visit your website and know within the first few seconds what you do and how it is relevant to them. Otherwise they won’t stay – or buy.

Write for your target audience

Most startups, especially those participating in a program or accelerator, are already clear on their niche target audience however this can still be overlooked in the website content. Consider the audiences that your website needs to cater for and talk in their language throughout the content. Think about the solutions you are providing to them and the outcomes you can deliver. Make sure your blog is not just about you but about things that matter to your target audience too.

Deliberate purpose

Every website needs a purpose and in most cases, the reason for the website existing is to make sales or generate leads. Don’t lose sight of this when writing the content for the website and make sure you include information that tells your customers what they need to do to take the next step. You can also have a secondary website objective too, like to generate a prospect database. 

Provide a defined next step

Following on from the point above, every page of your website needs to work towards the goals of the website. This means, that no page on the website should be a dead end and have content that simply doesn’t go anywhere. Include a call to action on every page. It might not necessarily be to purchase, it may be to read a follow up article, receive a free report, register for updates or make an enquiry. Businesses spend a lot of time and money to get people to your site, make sure your next step is clear.

Then Invite Your Customers

Only once the website can tick the above boxes is it really ready to receive visitors. Only then should a startup think about implementing tactical executions to drive traffic to the website. This may be optimising the site for search engines, trying to grow a pre-launch list, starting social media advertising or embarking on paid search activity. To do any of this activity prior to getting the core messaging and calls to action right on the website would be a waste of resources and would be sending customers to what is effectively a leaky bucket.

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This post is also published on StartupGrind.com