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Navigate the online advertising ocean

Posted by Chad O'Connor  August 1, 2013 11:00 AM

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Do you have a great idea for a products or subscription based service? Looking for ways to get started without wiping through your savings or pouring hundreds of hours into writing a 30 page business plan that almost no one (that can get you anywhere) will want to read? If so I strongly recommend you perform a “test” launch or as the industry calls it a “beta launch” to market test and better define your product offering. These aforementioned steps will help prove whether or not you have a case for a sustainable business and will be valuable “traction points” in helping to build your case for funding. Keep your day job for now and dip your feet into the online advertising ocean and make some splash (pages). While you are still a small company, the more sharks you come across early on, the better.

Here are some recommendations to get started:

1. Launch your website with a single page (they are usually referred to as landing or splash pages) – a brief description on the service you will be offering and a customer sign up option. Again, keep your description brief, your goal should be to whet someone’s appetite for your service so they can learn more and take advantage of your offer when you launch. The customer sign up process should only ask for an email address; you do not want to bombard someone with too many questions just yet. If you like to write and want to position yourself as an expert in your industry I would also set up a blog page and start blogging (only if you find this fun though, blogs take work and should be updated regularly).

2. Dabble and then focus – Once this single “website” page is up, you can ‘dabble’ in SEO (search engine optimization). There are many techniques (like Google AdWords and blogging) to ensure that when someone does a Google search for key words in your industry your website will pop up in the top searches. I say ‘dabble’ in SEO because your marketing strategy should adapt to what your subscription box service or product is. In many cases subscription boxes or products can “inspire demand.”

Next, implement a tool designed to manage your email signups (or inbound contacts as the “industry” refers to it) such as Mailchimp, HubSpot or Constant Contact. These email companies often offer free trial periods and education so get out there and take advantage of these services. Remember do not get too bogged down in teaching yourself the ins and outs of inbound marketing or “sorting” your email contacts; stay focused but be open to learning (chances are if you’re entrepreneur my aforementioned contradictory sentence makes sense to you). Now put the email list aside and focus on testing out online channels.

Once these are in place, I would suggest running online advertising tests in two-three online search channels: Google, Facebook and/or Linkedin. I have run advertising on Google and Facebook but not on LinkedIn (however I know of several successful examples with advertising on LinkedIn and can put you in touch with these companies). If your website copy is clear and compelling then all three are great sources of paid customer acquisition. All three of these allow for payment based on CPM (cost per 1,000 views) or clicks (cost on each click). All three have an option for you to allow them to optimize your performance. All three of these online search channels offer clear and specific results in their admin sections on how to run these campaigns. Remember create sign up pages for each channel you try; the online search channels will remind you of this step.

All three of these aforementioned channels allow you to test any number of ad concept variations. For example you can run five ads on each network with different copy and split your budget accordingly. This is known as “A/B split” testing which allows you to maximize the value of your spend. You can even watch the results in near real-time as well which can be exciting.

Following this outline will help to provide you with proof points for your subscription service or product offering potential. It will also demonstrate the efficiency of each customer acquisition venue and allow you to build profiles of your potential customers – all of which should be useful in product development, sales and fundraising.

Jessica Munroe is the co-founder of Supplet.com, an online marketplace for pregnant women and new moms. Supplet has a socially minded agenda that includes creating better health outcomes for children and families.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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