So, you are a startup devotee.
Your first thoughts are always to make your startup profitable. Profitability, in turn, is always a function of attracting new customers and gaining their confidence long term.
The tricky bit is that it’s the 21st century outside. Information technology with all its side effects on people and their behavior is here to stay.
Redefine Your 21st Century Consumers
A customer is always a freethinking individual whose needs and wants are dynamic and change over time. More than that, an individual’s everyday behavior relevant to their online presence and activities (sites visited, number of profiles, shares, comments, etc.) also changes over time. Same as their off-the-net behavior does.
This is why staying with one particular target market (and there may be many for a startup) is, at best, unwise. A startup’s target market is just too dynamic considering how fast things change both within and outside of the business. Tech change relevant to the product offering may just be too rapid, same as change in individuals’ minds regarding the use of the product offering may change. The problem itself that the product offering solutions may deteriorate over time and become no longer urgent or relevant enough for consumers to make a purchase.
This type of dynamic encircles startups, IT and consumers. It is futile to think that it is to be fought against. On the contrary, it is to be worked with. In order to maintain a competitive edge, startups just have to keep pushing and winning new markets, both domestic and international. In a way, only constant moving forward can outweigh the number of prospective customers that will inevitably keep ‘falling off’ due to:
- New alternatives
- Better competition
- New industry standards
- Psychological change
- Eventual, natural degradation of whatever consumer problem the product solves
Don’t Miss Out on the Breadcrumb Customers
Considering this highly volatile environment that every startup is operates in, businesses need to re-define who can actually be deemed a customer. This would give a much broader spectrum of who could prospectively be approached for business, and provide further insight into the where and how.
For this to happen, you need to re-identify a customer as not just the person who buys but also as a person who contemplates buying. More than that, it should also be the person who may simply be monitoring the company due to some distantly connected interest of theirs, or who has simply been referred but who has not yet had the need to buy or use from the company.
Even a follower on social media, who may never get around the idea of buying from your business, is still a customer in a way. Followers consume content. They consume e-mail correspondence, news and information regarding the company and the industry as a whole. Thus, their background information on the startup gets richer, thoughts regarding the particular niche get fuller and so their interest develops.
KPCB's latest report is devoted to the Internet trends of 2015. Thanks to new technologies and mobility as a new trend, approaches to work and business have changed greatly today. People are connected 24/7, and you can use this phenomenon to win new markets with your startup.
Connectivity changes day to day, so the ways people work and buy are constantly in flux, too. Eighty-four percent of users already prefer connecting and solving their personal and professional problems with the Internet rather than offline.
Image via Twitter
With that in mind, entrepreneurs should pay more attention to their online presence, becoming more flexible and mobile. If you don’t, your competitors will. It’s not the strongest business (read: best) that survives. It’s the business most adaptable to change that makes it.
Micro-outsource to Win New Markets
Combating volatile, unpredictable customer behavior is clearly easier with information technology than without it.
The tip is simple: combine access to new markets that information technology provides with the general public’s corresponding ever-more-active participation in online communities, media channels and social platforms.
How do you do that considering limited startup resources? It’s simple. Just move in on and start using freelancers’ markets.
The reasons for doing so are simple:
- It's Visionary. The freelance market is booming. Some firms even use freelance contracts to quickly test out an individual or to complete a job that would otherwise require a lengthy hiring process, unrealistic time and money commitments, as well as leadership approval. Startups are just destined to be more interested in utilizing freelancers’ work due to the very startup nature of their business structure and resource allowances.
- It’s Accessible. Even the most resource-restricted of startups will find freelancers accessible both financially and time wise. Why not find a freelancer who could represent your startup via a dedicated social media channel? Rather than hiring another social media marketer for your business, it’s way cheaper (and still relatively safe) to set a dedicated foreign-language medium and hire a person to work on it a few hours a day. Costs are minimal and what you get is constant outreach targeted at a particular social segment or geographic region of interest.
- It’s Rewarding. These days, it is just not enough to be concentrating on local presence and local residents for customers anymore. This is all the while a truly global outreach cannot go unnoticed. Having your business go global via information technology and freelancers’ help is a great plateau for testing further strengths and weaknesses of your product offering across various international markets. Again, just for the sake of followers, feedback, or existing local market players’ reaction, it is already worth the time and money.
There is no need for a central office full of professionals anymore. Think of all the tasks that your startup could outsource: content creation and distribution, video content generation, social media marketing, etc.
Related Article: A Startup’s Guide to Outsourcing Tasks and Duties
How Can Freelancers Help You?
They live in the same place your target audience does. At the very least, they can help you get to that unique geo-specific and socio-specific information that you would otherwise need to pay for separately.
They think the same your target audience does. So, whatever content they will be producing will have already been aligned with your consumers unique feel and preferences.
- According to eMarketer, about two billion consumers will have smartphones by 2016. So, in order to move into mobile, freelancers can also be of help. Forty-five percent of people use smartphones for work purposes, 34 percent choose online collaboration, while 41 percent download applications to use them for work. Hiring an outsourced specialist, more often than not you can be sure that they are tech-savvy and know something about using mobile for work and leisure. That is just the kind of insider knowledge every startup would love to have.
Hiring outsourced specialists can help you win new markets with your startup, taking into account geographical, cultural and legislative differences from country to country. Freelancers could be a good option to outsource content creation and info distribution, while local professional vendors would make it easier for your startup to succeed in analytics, content optimization and direct selling.
Where Can You Find Skilled Freelancers?
Here are some good resources to find useful tools and native experts, depending on a market you are going to win:
Social Media Delivered: Fully managed services, including training and consulting, to help you make social media easy for your business and outsource them when needed.
Fan Playr: Professionals to help you analyze visitor traffic and identify better strategies to take new markets with your startup. They help you optimize campaigns and segment traffic to reach all business goals.
Bid 4 Papers: Professional writers from all over the world to help you understand local nuances and earn trust of diverse audience.
Contently: A platform to publish your brand and find professionals for video scripts and graphics creation.
Pay With a Tweet: A software to give your customers a privileged access to your product. They share news about your company, generating content circulated naturally to many different markets.
Oktopost: Professional managers to help you create and distribute content to social media, including local ones. They create social campaigns, taking into account cultural specifications of local audience; and that's what you need exactly to promote content.
15Five: A tool to help you communicate with your outsourced employees, creating questions and allowing them to read and respond. The best way to stay connected to your team and manage what's going on in your company.
According to Georgina Hurst (from Institutional Investor), the new markets to win in 2015 are China and India: 51 percent of Internet users are from these countries, while only 10 percent are from the USA.
Unique cultural differences can lend to different perceptions of branding practices from that the western world is used to. To develop a smart approach, you should research all opportunities and their business culture too. That’s why you have freelancers or, better to say, native experts.
Related Article: Telling Your Brand Story: How to Engage the Masses
First, this article called for a meaningful, business objectives and information technology-fueled re-evaluation of who can be considered customers of a company. This essentially means that the spectrum of who can be considered a marketing target (for startups’ marketing efforts) should should be broader. Everyone who follows your company's social media channels should be considered a customer. The benefits of doing so mainly lie within media outreach, cross-cultural selling and new market entry.
Second, whatever stage your startup is at or whatever product it offers, freelance markets can be used managing online presence as well as online reputation. Online presence and good online reputation are your number one goal to tap into new markets and their people’s loyalty. The remedy is simple. Hire native experts to gain confidence of different unique geographical, cultural and social groups.
Third, latest Internet and technology trends dictate business owners and start-uppers new realities of what it means to make a business profitable. Now, in order to make it profitable, you have to make it visible. Just keep up with the times and never fail to adapt to online marketplaces’ growth, ever increasing social media impact on people and their daily routines, arrival of alternative work modes, as well as constantly new and better online platforms.
Make use of that all and you will be sure to survive your competition, all the while expanding your presence to new markets. Freelancers are there to use. Don’t let your stereotypes or old-school business tactics keep you from one thing always worth doing—adapting.