Today's digital entrepreneur faces many challenges but one of the most important factors which impacts on success is their ability to reach their audience and scale rapidly.
We've captured our top three key online growth strategies which could make a difference between being the latest online business flop and a triumphant success.
Online Growth Strategy #1: Influencer Outreach
There are some great examples of brands who have scaled quickly by using social influencers.
A Social Media Influencer is a user on social media who has established deep credibility or celebrity status in a specific industry.
A social media influencer has access to a large audience (their "Following"). They can persuade others to buy or take action due to their authenticity, personal power within that world and overall reach.
GymShark is a great example of how to use Influencers to rapidly build your business and your brand. When they first started out selling gym clothes, they reached out to specific Instagram Users who were very influential on their audience.
They selected body beautiful people who bodybuild or are professional fitness coaches or trainers and who would deeply appeal to their business audience.
How did they do it? GymShark sent the Influencers their product (gorgeous gym clothes that make you look great) and got these Influencers to wear their products at the Gym.
Whilst at the gym the Influencers would take pictures and post them to their accounts, thereby promoting GymSharks product to their audience and encouraging the audience to find out more about the brand.
Why does it work? This acts like a referral process. Social influencers are helping your audience to discover your brand, almost like a best friend recommendation.
Social influencers are becoming more savvy to their power in supporting a brands growth strategy, so if you want to implement this online growth strategy, you will need to pay for that "influence".
Social influencers can expect to be paid thousands of dollars for just a single post if they are considered the very top influencers and celebrities with vast volumes of Followers. This is often out of most entrepreneurs league from a cost perspective and is usually best left for the major brands with deep pockets!
However, for online startups and new brands, the best way to get started with Influencer outreach as an online strategy is to target micro influencers - the less known but still credible User accounts, with smaller followings, who perhaps might be happy to accept a sample of your product or a smaller payment in return for promotion.
Whether you go for major or micro influencers, expect some form of trade or value exchange to happen for you to be able to secure that social influencer promotion.
Online Growth Strategy #2: Partnerships & Collaborations
Co-branding with other companies who are in a similar industry, but non-competing can help your business make a major step forward in your brand positioning.
This is particularly true if the brand that you partner with has slightly more weight than yourself in terms of size or brand recognition.
Why does it work? When you put two brand logos next to each other, there's an association and your business will hopefully benefit from the positive affinity created - it breeds success and shows a level of "approval" by association to that other brand.
Now there has to be a win-win otherwise why would bigger brands do this?
Well the large brands might team up and co-brand with smaller companies to look more edgy in a competitive marketplace, to look more entrepreneurial, to show they are aware of independent players in your industry and happy to collaborate with small, etc. It can also give them access to a new audience and fresh industry ideas.
So there is a genuine reason why the bigger brands might accept a collaboration with you as an online start up, or small but high growth brand, but you've got to have a very good brand story and a solid brand positioning to be able to secure that level of partnership deal.
Many entrepreneurs start with simple, local collaborations first - which is a great way to learn how to work alongside other businesses to put on joint events or co-sponsor activities your local audience loves.
If people like the other brand you're associated with it is quite likely, they'll like your brand too. Partnerships and collaborations can be really beneficial for both parties and it can give you quick access to their audience and help you shortcut that audience building process.
Online Growth Strategy #3: Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing has been around for a while now and it's not yet dead.
Affiliate marketing is an agreement where an online retailer pays commission to an external website for traffic or sales generated from its referrals. It requires a link to be placed on an external website that directs visitors to your website to buy or take action.
There are large scale affiliate marketing platforms such as AffiliateWindow where you can register your brand and create an affiliate member marketing scheme. Bloggers and content producers are attracted to the platform and request to join your programme, to help promote your online business.
Why does it work? In the same way that website visitors now expect to see adverts targeted to them. If they land on a bloggers website and it's making some appropriate recommendations to help customers discover your products, it is likely that you're going to get some people click through, following that link to your website to find out more.
To run a successful affiliate programme for your own brand, you've got to demonstrate good conversion rates and great traffic flow / underlying interest in your brand and products, for other website owners, bloggers and content producers to want to continue to promote your product on their site.
You might be able to administer the affiliate programme yourself if you have the right tools or plugins for your website. Both Shopify, Wordpress and Kajabi offer affiliate management tools within their admin with the right plugin and price plan.
Remember creating your own affiliate marketing programme requires significant planning and there is a lot of administration behind the scenes. You're going to have to track all the affiliate members and their unique links, capture when the links are clicked and then calculate and pay the affiliate their commission on time for the referral or sales that they've achieved.
Affiliate commission rates can range vastly depending on the affiliate programme between 1% and 30% or even more if it's a particular high ticket item. It's really down to the individual business and the rate you set.
Finally, be aware that if a blogger has their own website and they can only put a limited size advert or affiliate link on there, they're going to go for the affiliate partner who's most likely to generate them the highest income for that real estate / space on their website. It is a very competitive space but can work wonders for scaling your online business when you find the right affiliates and look after them.
Make It Happen In Your Business
These are our top three growth strategies for digital entrepreneurs and in our experience, if you take the time to carefully learn about, plan and implement these approaches, they will make a difference to your marketing and your brand exposure. We have seen many clients get great results from these strategies and we know you can too.
- Learn more about Influencer marketing by reading our latest blog post How To Explain Influencer Marketing To Your Mom.
- Determine who the social media influencers are for your specific industry or online niche. Start by following their accounts and engaging with them naturally.
- Make a list of other businesses you know who you could form a natural collaboration or partnership with - do your products "go together", can you create a product bundle and promote it online together for example?
- Learn more about affiliate marketing and plan carefully before you dive in to creating your own programme. Look for examples of other people in your industry or niche who are already using affiliate marketing as a method to get more traffic and customers.