In the fast-paced world of start-ups, the most beloved marketing tactics are the ones that can be attached to solid revenue streams. This is only natural: an emerging company needs capital to prove its viability and establish its market presence. Practices that focus on long-term intangibles like customer loyalty and name recognition often get eternally back-burnered.
Launch Raven founder Lara White knows from personal experience that ignoring brand-building activities is not just unwise, it’s potentially damaging. She’s taken a company from zero to success almost entirely on her own, and witnessed the power that a strong brand can have on a company’s trajectory. And she knows that building loyalty and brand-recognition are cost-effective strategies that can make or break emerging startups.
Lara spent spent nearly 10 years working as a photographer and watching her phenomenally talented colleagues fail. These artists were so focused on their craft that many of them entirely neglected their businesses, shirking active marketing and promotional tactics in favor of good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth. So in 2010, Lara launched an educational website designed to help photographers learn key marketing, sales, and business strategies.
Her company, PhotoMint, was a complete unknown and she needed to get the word out and build a customer base. Lara knew she needed a steady stream of sales and customers, but aside from her immediate circle of acquaintances, no one knew her. She needed to establish herself as an expert and a thought-leader, someone that the larger community of photographers could trust. So she set about to building brand awareness via content marketing, social media, blogging, and a strong online presence.
Diving into brand-building may sound like an odd choice so early in the game, but when you're a brand-new startup you have no audience to reach or customers to tap. So first, you must understand who your target audience is, and then determine the most promising lead gen channels. In Lara’s case, she knew those would be partnerships, an evangelical user community, trade shows, and constant online activity. Brand awareness may seem optional, but it’s actually vital. It supports all channels and turns cold leads into warm leads. If people have heard of your product before you try to sell them, you'll have a much easier time closing the sale.
Many of the skills and practices that made Lara successful in her previous work for the nonprofit sector were revived as she built PhotoMint. Years of executive management gave her a fearless nature and a 50,000-foot view on business-building. She was aggressive and enthusiastic as she set about nurturing her heart-driven solopreneur venture.
She also acknowledged that in the early days of a business, audience-building takes time and elbow grease, but is one of the most cost-effective ways to establish an emerging brand.
Lara performed split testing and examined performance trends to evaluate marketing effectiveness, brand awareness, increase conversion rates, and optimize marketing ROI.
She created SEO-driven content strategy that brought traffic to the site through strategic blog content, secured media placements, interviews, videos, and downloadable content.
She leveraged affiliate partnerships, social media, and acquisition strategy to rapidly grow her platform, generate revenue, build brand awareness, and increase site traffic.
She built an email list of 35K through data-driven email marketing strategy, including content strategy, affiliate partnerships, Facebook ads, and product-launch promotions.
She drove sales of PhotoMint via advertising, PPC, display, social, email, PR, and partnerships.
To position herself as a subject-matter expert and influencer, Lara identified and cultivated relationships with prominent industry experts. Speaking engagements, sourced media placements, and strategic guest posts lent her both exposure and gravitas, while her own audience grew into a lively and supportive community of users.
In just under one year, Lara built PhotoMint's audience from 0 to 35,000 engaged followers through both inbound and outbound marketing strategies. Each of her strategic channels led to a different positive result:
Her tireless but strategic social media campaigning led to a book deal. John Wiley & Sons recognized Lara as a thought leader based on social media influence and reputation. In 2013, Photography Business Secrets: The Savvy Photographer's Guide to Sales, Marketing and More was released. Within a few months, it became a best-seller, and the book inspired thousands of small business owners to embrace smart, active marketing practices in order to run profitable businesses.
Her innovative brand awareness/PR campaign led to loads of press and media exposure. PhotoMint was covered by top industry publications including Professional Photographer, Rangefinder, Business Insider, Digital Wedding Forum, Digital Photography School, and Professional Photographers of America.
Establishing PhotoMint as a reliable resource and herself as an industry thought-leader led to multiple business opportunities for Lara. During the company’s growth cycle, she encountered dozens of partnership opportunities and grew her customer base exponentially. This prominence and visibility enabled her to increase her rates and be choosier about her clients.
Lara’s acquisition strategies allowed her to rapidly grow her platform and brand awareness, leading to a 400% traffic increase within 12 months. She built a lead nurture list of 35K via a data-driven email marketing campaign, and drove 180K+ monthly visitors through SEO-driven content strategy. A comprehensive digital marketing plan with solid focus on brand equity led her to phenomenal success.
In the early days of business building, branding can fall to the wayside. But establishing a strong brand in the early phase of a startup helps the business gain much-needed momentum. One of the foundations of go-to-market strategy is generating a customer base to whom you can communicate your brand’s unique value. Without targeted branding tactics, that customer base may remain tiny or non-existent.
Launch Raven’s proven track-record of lightning-fast, phenomenally effective brand-building makes our agency an ideal partner for growing businesses in need of a crucial marketing boost. We know exactly how to leverage cost-effective tactics to build a strong online presence for our startup clients, and make brand-building a key initial strategy for any company working through the early stages of growth.