Marketing Blabs – Podcast

Blab #8: Ideas for Startups

Date of Blab

28 July 2023

Blab Host

Categories

Listen Time

00:39:32

In this enlightening Blab, we are joined by the inspirational Annie Gilbert, a leading figure from Google's Digital Garage. With years of industry experience under her belt, Annie delivers invaluable insights on the journey to startup success.

Whether you're a budding entrepreneur or an established business owner looking to bring fresh ideas to your startup, this episode is packed with expert advice and actionable strategies you'll not want to miss. Tune in and take your startup game to the next level.

On this Blab: Tom Haslam (Host), Annie Gilbert (Guest), Matt Janaway and Steven Pownall.

Blab Transcript
Tom Haslam - (host):

Hello, everyone. Welcome to Marketing Blabs. This podcast is brought to you by Marketing Labs, an expert digital marketing agency based in Nottinghamshire. If you're a business owner or a marketing professional looking for straightforward non-salesy tips and advice to help grow your business online, then this is the podcast for you. Strap in because we're about to reveal the things that other agencies would rather you didn't know. Hello listeners, and welcome to episode number eight of the Marketing Blabs Podcast. My name's Tom. I'm the creative director here at Marketing Labs and the host of this podcast. Today we've got an episode that is sure to ignite the creative sparks. This is part number eight and our focus today is going to be startups. So whether you've recently launched your startup business or you're just mulling over that breakthrough idea while sipping your morning coffee, this episode is going to be an absolute treasure trove for you. Joining me on today's Blab is Matt Janaway, our CEO. How are you doing, Matt?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Hi, Tom. Yeah, I'm really good. Yeah, looking forward to today's episode.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Ready to go?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Absolutely, and it's also nice to have a special guest.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah. You've got no Marketing Lab's clubber on today though, which is disappointing.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

I did yesterday. I didn't even think about it this morning, to be honest.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Poor effort. We've also got Steven who's been on about one podcast. He's back though.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

No, this is my third.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Oh, is it? Oh, okay. It's been a while though, hasn't it, to be fair.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

Yeah, I like it that way, spread them out a little bit.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Steven is our senior SEO strategist. Again, I always struggle with that one. And also today, we've got a very special guest here with us in Annie Gilbert. Annie has helped lots of businesses get started via Google's Digital Garage, and certainly has the experience that is going to help you get cracking with your next big idea or business venture. She's here with us, joining us in our lovely office in Redford. How are you doing today, Annie?

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

I'm doing really good. Thank you. The sun is shining. What more do you need?

Tom Haslam - (host):

I know. Yeah, sunflowers everywhere.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Oh, I wish there were, Tom. I'm waiting.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Are you excited for joining us on the pod?

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Very excited.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Excellent. I guess we'll get started then. So on the subject of startups then, I think the first thing that people need to think about, if you agree, is validating that idea of what the business is going to be. You can research competitors, your social media. Have you got anything that you would like to say about validating the idea?

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Yeah. I think that's a really key point, to be honest. Now I've trained I think over ... I've not done an official headcount, but thousands for training and mentoring for the Google Garage over six years. And the one thing that I note is the most important, is purpose. So they know why they're doing what they're doing, what problem they're solving and the kind of solution that's going to bring for their customers. And that is something that any successful person has as well, so having that idea and direction helps everything else to fall into place.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, it's a good point. I think we see lots of people, or let's say potential clients that come to us, and they're not quite sure ... you'd be surprised at how many businesses even three years down the line still haven't had that validation.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

It's really interesting as well, isn't it? Because I mean, we've all had conversations with people who, they think they've got an idea and they think this idea is amazing ... I'm not taking anything away from them, but just because their grandma has told them it's amazing doesn't necessarily mean that it's validated. I know that sounds a little bit cruel, but you've got to have better insights than just friends and family. You've got to have real validation about your product and the problem it solves or the purpose.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Absolutely. A really good example was something called Kids Trove, which we talk about on the Google Digital Garage. It's a lady who realised there was no diversity in the dolls and the toys market. She started to create Afro-Caribbean dolls and games and books. You can see very clearly what the purpose is there, and what the drive behind it is and the mission behind that, and why she's going to stick to that in every part of her communication. Marketing essentially is communicating, so knowing the reason why you're communicating is kind of fundamental.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I always think, obviously it's important to consider the market as well. Look at what people are offering, the service that you're thinking about offering and do lots of research on that. Whether that's looking at their websites, social media be a good one, how much engagement do they get? Looking at different areas like that for validating your idea.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

I think yeah, that links in really well actually. Because if you know that you've got something clear, you know there'll be competitors, but most that I speak to along the way haven't got any idea really of what their competitors are yet. So I think it's more about crystallising that idea early on and getting that set from the beginning.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Definitely.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

There are various ways of testing these ideas to see if the audience is interested. So even before say, a product is launched or a service is launched, you could try to validate that through say, social media or a landing page, see if you can gather interest. If you're asking people to submit their email address for example, on a landing page, if they're interested, if you're actually getting people to submit that ... Okay, you've got to get people to it. That's where social media probably would come in, in that instance, maybe some advertisement. But if they're coming to that landing page and they're interested and they give you their details, that in itself is a very strong signal for validation. That's a good way of testing.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Absolutely. It's similar to say the author world. If you get pre-orders, you know you're onto something. So it's testing the market in advance. Yeah, and doing questionnaires, online surveys, an easy way to do it, as well as looking at what competitors are actually out there and the results that they're bringing in.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

How would you go about it if there aren't any competitors then, Annie, from a Digital Garage point of view? If there aren't any competitive ... a bit like the dolls, how would you go about it that way?

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Well, you know there's a market for dolls, and you'll know that there's a market that care about the issues that Kids Trove talk about. So those two combined factors are a really good recipe for reaching your tribe. Every business has a tribe and your tribe will be who care about what you're talking about. So what are you doing that makes a difference to this world, and if you weren't here, who would care? So I think the important thing there is seeing the wider market, at least you know what business you're in. You know you're in the toys business, but you're competing therefore with people who care about diversity. So then you bring the two together.

Tom Haslam - (host):

It's been really specific, isn't it? And the more specific you can be ... we talk about this in Search, the more specific you can be, the better and you've got a clearer goal. It's a recipe for performance, shall we call it?

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

I think if you use a business idea as a person in the same way, if your focus is clear and you've got one clear goal, you know you're going to make little steps every day towards that goal. And within 365 days you've climbed the mountain. It's the same in a business. If you know what you're heading towards, it's easier to make the relevant steps along the way. Because otherwise you're just having a pipe dream, so that's the difference. The considered steps will happen and nothing will stop you doing it, because there's no deadline on purpose. There's no end to purpose. If you care about it, you'll make it happen. I think the passion is important when you're doing a startup.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

It's no accident as well that when you've got a passion for something, you also have consistency, and consistency is just so important in this. Because another reason that so many startups fail is because they're not entirely committed, or they don't necessarily know or understand what they need to be doing to stay consistent. Consistency is so important with these things. But also what I was going to say then ... and we'll probably touch on this a little bit later, but it's a good question that Steven had. Because occasionally we get approached by people that might say, "I've got this really cool product. It's revolutionary, it's new. There's nothing like this," and the product is actually really exciting and really cool. But for them as a business, they're making a mistake by wanting to speak to us about SEO or Google Ads, for example. Because their product is so revolutionary that nobody knows it exists, and if nobody knows it exists, Search is not the channel for you. Because there's nothing they can search for, other than potentially problems but that's more about awareness than getting intent-driven traffic.

So that's when understanding about the industry, your competitors, the audience, if you know for sure there's nobody searching for this kind of thing because it is genuinely revolutionary, then there are other ways to market outside of Search. So it's about understanding those opportunities, understanding your audience, understanding the product, how people might consume who you are as a business. Because in that case, social media for example will be a much better opportunity.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Yeah, absolutely. Because as we know at the top of the funnel, the very top, 80% of our time should be spent on brand awareness, but new businesses obviously think about sales right away. But especially if you've got innovation, if you've got something new, then you're going to have to spend more time on the top activity. Which is your social media, which is getting your story out and getting people to know why you're doing what you're doing, which in itself is infectious.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I guess this leads nicely on ... we've talked about audiences and understanding your target audience. Are there any techniques that you recommend when you're talking to a startup about how they can understand their audience or putting, let's say, personas together of that audience?

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Yeah. Well, first of all, knowing the business you're in, knowing your competitors, you'll start to see who follows your competitors. But then looking at your insights, whether it's Google Analytics, social insights ... you've got analytics on every social media page, but bringing it together and seeing who's engaging most with your brand, especially if it's a new stage of the business. Because the likely goal at that point is brand awareness, so engagement and awareness of reach is where you'd want to focus. So looking at who's engaging with you, who's also signing up and finding out more about those people. Reaching out to them and actually getting some little groups together and doing some qualitative research isn't a bad idea, focus groups, if you want to get into more of the ideas and interests of those people. But there's a lot you can capture now through digital tools as well.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah. A lot of people discount the focus sessions, or focus groups as they're called, of getting people in a room talking about a product or a service and getting feedback. They jump straight in, a lot of people, don't they? Straight in the deep end of, I don't know. Then they've got no direction. It's a spiral really from there, isn't it?

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Yeah. Because it's getting to the heart of the customer because people buy from emotion. So if we actually get to know what triggers them emotionally, that will help guide us with how to connect. And of course, you want to know your customers because they are part of your tribe. So it's good to get to know them periodically anyway.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

That's such an important point as well, by the way, because logic comes in a little bit after emotion when it comes to marketing, especially at the awareness stage. So if you're aligning your brand and your message with something that is triggering them, a certain emotional feeling, that's going to have such a big impact on the performance of your marketing.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Definitely. I think this brings us nicely onto what Annie's already talked about, is the brand and the storytelling of that business then. I see lots of people, especially when it comes to visual identity, they don't get it right the first time or they don't invest enough time and money into it. I've seen so many businesses fail at that. Is there anything that you want to add when it comes to that side of things?

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Yeah. In terms of identity and storytelling of your brand, I think it's really important again to reflect on why it matters to you and what those important points are. But the thing is, it's good to adapt as well. It doesn't have to be that this is your one identity and it stays forever. It's important to be consistent so when you create an identity, for that identity to be shared everywhere. But if it evolves, it's because you're evolving, your business is evolving, and that's okay too. It's just, don't do it too frequently and consider why it's changing because obviously like all people, we evolve.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, that's a good point.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah. And when it's based on insights as well, if you're making those changes for the right reasons, because you know your audience is going to identify with that, that's the important part. Something that I've thought about for a long time when it comes to storytelling, you can't really nail your storytelling unless you really nail who your audience is. So everything that Annie has just said there is so important and is bang on. Because if you don't know the challenges of your audience, if you don't know how your product should resonate with them, you can't tell that story in the right way. So there's a lot of tips you can do, to maybe get some more insights on that as well. I think one of the reasons why people don't like those kind of sessions, or don't necessarily do those kind of sessions as much as they should ... when you might sit down with a focus group and try to get information out of them, is probably because one, it's not as exciting. In the digital age everything's all about excitement and short-term, quick I guess insights and feedback. Whereas that's the kind of thing that's quite time-consuming to organise, to plan, to get your notes from. But it's quite important.

There are actually some ways of digitising that though. One of the things you could do is go to a platform like Reddit or Quora, or you could use Google data to see what kind of questions people are asking. If you can examine the questions that people are asking about your competitors, you're in a position there where you can extract that, use it as part of your messaging, and even get that content onto your website. So you're answering the questions that people are asking about your competitors before they're asking them, which can only be a good thing.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Yeah. I think once you get clear on your story, because that's the whole reason that you're in business, then the content will follow very easily. Because if you are your customer, if you really are an advocate for what you're doing, ask yourself, are you really? Are you an advocate? Are you someone that would buy this product, use it regularly? Do you care about it? Would you shout about it? If that's the case, it's much easier to know what your customers are going to care about. And as much as we do need to do research and look at how much gravitas that has, if our heart is in it and we know what they care about, we'll start creating content which naturally has an affinity with our audience as well.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Nice. Some really interesting stuff there. I think coming back to audiences and I did mention buyer personas, is there any tips and tricks that you recommend to people in terms of building that persona?

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Yeah. It's important to be able to visualise and understand who we're talking to when we're creating content. So a bio persona helps us to do that. Within the bio persona we'll be looking at their interests, what they look like, where they live, what gender they are, what their age group is, all the basic audience profile that you'd be looking at when you're doing your marketing. But by creating maybe two or three of these and having them as pictures on our desks, when we're content creators for example, it helps us to know that we're talking to Jim, to Susan, to George. It gives much more flavour to the experience and it makes it more tailored, which is why people feel they're being spoken to directly. Whereas if you're creating content that is just for a generic audience, you don't actually speak to anyone in particular. So it's important to tailor things because we have to create our tribe. And to do that, we need to know who they are, what they look like, what they care about, and that will make us more connected. Because we're just humans connecting with humans.

There's nothing really more complicated than that in many ways, once we understand who our audience is.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

I think the sooner you realise that as well, the better in terms of those relationships you build. Most of these relationships digitally as well, by the way, they're not connected in the same way that you would be connected when you're in a room with somebody. You may well never speak to most of these people. But the voice and your message, it needs to resonate with them, otherwise you don't get that connection. Something as well, I see this mistake quite a lot with personas ... I think personas are so incredibly important but what tends to happen quite a lot is, they get created and then forgotten about. Or they get created and never readdressed, and over time you'll start gathering data almost so you can hone who that audience is. I think it's actually a really good thing to periodically come back to that persona and adjust it, based on the conversations you have with people, based on the analytics data, social data, engagement data. When you reanalyze that, you should be able to just continually improve who that persona is.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

And you could make it to a more qualitative level as well. So once you've got your data, in terms of what's available digitally, you can then take it to say, questionnaires ... which is also quantitative, but you can send that out via email. Maybe if you get 1,000 responses from that, you could invite a certain amount in, say six to eight to do a focus group. And then you've got the voice and you can put in their voice into those personas, and suddenly you really know the people that you're engaging with very intimately.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

There's a great tool, by the way, for this. HubSpot have a superb tool for creating personas. It gives you a chart that you can either save as a PDF or print-off and it looks great. It's a really nice tool.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah. Mel speaks about this quite a lot, doesn't she? And obviously being a content writer, it's important. Mel's got quite a unique job within the businesses. She's got to understand multiple clients and their audiences, not just ours. I know we're talking about startups and that's their business. But the point is, having that persona at the forefront of your mind when you're creating the content. Whether it's your website, whether it's a blog, whether it's a social media post, whatever that might be. If you've got Jeff ... I don't know where Jeff came from.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Sheffield.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah. Jeff from Sheffield who's 50 year old and he likes cricket ... I'm just talking about myself. I'm not 50, but my point is, if you've got that at the forefront of your mind, then you're going to be talking to Jeff in the right way.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Yeah. And you're going to know his, a day in the life of Jeff. You're going to know where he hangs out, what he does, and roughly when he's going to pick up his information and where from. So that all helps with content serving as well as creation.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

And what social channels they hang out at. This is something I wanted to raise today actually. Because startups, you should always keep an eye out for the handles so you can save them. If your startup works, you don't want somebody else stealing a handle on social media. However, you see it all the time where startups, they create accounts on every social platform. They spread themselves way too thin. They don't focus on the platforms where their audience is, which is a big mistake. Really, in my opinion, you need to pick one or two where you know who your audience is, and you need to put effort consistently into those areas first. You can expand to the others later. You want to be spending your time where your audience is, and you see that a lot. That's a mistake that happens too regularly.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

You do, and also people forget mindset as well as message and platform. So people are in different mindsets on different platforms, so it's about capturing what mindset, are they on the go? Are they on the fly? Are they in creative mode? Are they in chatting mode? What mode are they in? So that's important but also, don't use the same content therefore across those platforms. Because if you just continuously rinse, repeat, then it's not going to be very useful. You can repurpose though. So you can create, say for example, infographics for the visual platforms where it's relevant, like Pinterest might be useful. But thinking about those as individual platforms with individual mindsets and purposes of their own, helps you to connect with the audiences on there.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Nice. I think that leads us on nicely to let's say, marketing yourself. So obviously networking, collaborating, whether you want to create partnerships and things like that, especially early on that can be quite helpful. I suppose in a scenario or an environment like Google Digital Garage, there's lots of startups there, so they're all sort of there to help each other get information from each other. What are you doing? What am I doing? And so on. I know you like networking yourself, Annie. Is there anything that you want to add on that side of things?

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Yeah. I think because we're in this digital world, we all too often forget that there are people behind those screens. So having that human connection, there's a lot more energy there. There's a lot more relationships that can be built, and you always want to combine the two, never leave it to just one channel. You'd never want to avoid digital because we are a digital world, and if COVID hasn't proven that, what can? But we do want to keep those relationships growing. And going to these networking events gives that opportunity for you to reach complementary businesses, not competing, ones that complement what you're doing. Okay, if you're in the same business, you might feel that you're vying for the same audience. But if you're doing something slightly different but in the same business, then you can support one another through it, and that's a really good win in terms of developing networks.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, networking's an interesting one. I used to go networking all the time but I'm completely opposite now. I don't know whether that's an impact of COVID or whatever. But I found that you create those relationships early and I still have those relationships now and they stay a lot longer. It's interesting.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

I think again, it's knowing your audience. So if you're going exactly to the right places and you're having the same passions and interests, then you're going to naturally create those formative relationships that lead to something at the end of it. You can't force relationships in a generic sense. And that's what often happens in more of the exhibitions, the larger events, where everybody seems to go but they're not sure really why they're there, apart from to sell and people don't want to be sold to.

Tom Haslam - (host):

No. Yeah. I don't like walking around them exhibitions and just saying-

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

I don't like networking to stop, I'm terrible.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I just nick a load of pens.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

You like the cake.

Tom Haslam - (host):

And the cake and the cookies.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

And the bags.

Tom Haslam - (host):

And the bags.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

I think with the Digital Garage though, it's like an incubator for startups. It's a really nice place to get people that are on the same journey, at the same stage.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Definitely.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

There's a lot of good relationships built out of the Digital Garage that we've seen develop, so that's nice.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Absolutely. Yeah.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Just on that point as well, I think it's similar to creating a buyer persona and an audience, isn't it? Because actually what you're doing by creating that buyer persona is, you're aligning your product, your brand, with an audience instead of the other way around. But actually what's interesting about what you were just saying there, Annie, is, everybody that's there, they're all at the same phase of their journey. So actually they've got so much in common, that aligns, which is a much better way of building a relationship because you've already got something in common. Whereas when you go specifically to exhibitions or networking events, you don't have the same synergy because everybody is there to want to sell you something. Once you remove that from the process, all of a sudden networking becomes quite a lot easier.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

I think there's a room now for micro-networking, for networking around specific themes and topics. I think there might be a growth in that area. Because going on networks with BT that I've been doing, it makes me see that people like the outdoors ... they like to work remotely or whatever, and for example, the remote workers might join that group. So you start to find these little micro-communities that have connections for other reasons and that builds and breeds much better partnerships.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Communities are so important, aren't they? Because marketing is, it can be expensive. Not only can it be expensive, but you've also got to be incredibly confident and not fragile that it's going to work, which is always a challenge anyway. You can never guarantee marketing. It's not one of those things that you can guarantee will work. So as a startup, it's very difficult to invest in marketing. Whereas there are a few I guess processes that you can do, either completely for free or very cheap, and networking if done the right way is certainly one of them. As is partnerships, as is social media and as is building a personal brand, which is something that I think every founder really needs to do.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Yes, absolutely. It's the voice behind the page, isn't it? And interestingly what you're saying there, nearly everybody I've met at all these events at Google Digital Garage ... which is thousands now, they all have a sigh of relief when they realise they don't have to get it perfect. Because the idea isn't about, we know all the answers, it's about iteration. It's, we test this, we know the recipe and then we repeat the cooking every single time. And if it doesn't work, we don't do that recipe again. We know the ingredients for what does and doesn't work, and it's trial and error. So that is something we've got to be brave and try and do, because otherwise we don't know how close we are until we give it a go.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Experience, isn't it? Ultimately it's experience. I'll use a football analogy here that Annie probably won't like. But if you're a football manager and all you get is success, if you've never taken a team through a relegation battle, you're not experiencing it. It's a very similar thing really, because you get so many different challenges in business. Some of them are good, some of them are difficult. Some of them you will love, some of them you'll hate. But unless you go through them, you don't necessarily really know how to deal with them. So the more you get yourself in those situations, and the more you test and the more you learn and the more you figure things out, the better you get at it.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Absolutely. It's a bit like the Dunning-Kruger effect where you think, oh, I know it all because I've got no experience. So you're right at the top of that curvature. But then you realise actually, someone knows a bit more than I do. Oh, they know a lot more than I do. Your confidence drops and your confidence goes down as actually your experience goes up, so it's not aligned. But what's very interesting is, it takes on average businesses seven times a failing before they succeed. They can have seven different businesses before they become a success. So even if your first go doesn't seem to be working out, then it's about knowing when to exit and start again with something new, or trying to be flexible with where you're going.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah. The failure rate in startup businesses is quite astronomical really when you look at it, when you break it down to figures. I don't know the figures off the top of my head but I think it's something like, I don't know, 80% of startups fail in the first two years.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Do you know what? This is going to sound brutal and I don't mean it to, because I genuinely wish everybody all the success they can get. But it doesn't surprise me because they don't take care and understand these fundamentals that we're talking about now. They make the same mistake that most of the others have made and failed. And actually a lot of it is quite simple, but they'll work extremely hard doing the wrong things. Whereas, actually you can make your life an awful lot easier by doing the right things.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Absolutely. I think what you find is, they're trying to look big in certain ways but not putting in, in the most important ways. And that's what you often find, and that's understandable when you're starting out because you're inexperienced and you think that's what people want. But actually people just want your story. They want your opinion, and everybody has their own uniqueness, and that's where you're distinctive and that's what makes you stand out.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

I'm going to throw a spanner in the works now as well, because I actually think you'd have better success as a startup if you embrace it. And what I mean by that is, people buy into being early adopters of things. You imagine being, say, a startup e-commerce business for example, and you receive an order. If that order comes with a note from the founder of the business saying, I really appreciate this ... We're a small business, we're working extremely hard. We think we've got a great product, and I just want you to know just really how much we appreciate your order. That is a lot stronger than somebody thinking, well, they're a team of let's say 10, 20, 30 people, I'm just a number to them.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Oh, absolutely. It's like, we've never been so connected yet so alone, and COVID has given us Zoom fatigue. So the idea that somebody cares ... I mean, the best businesses have been the ones that have delivered great customer service, the ones that are really putting their customer first and actually know why it matters.

Tom Haslam - (host):

There's lots we've talked about there in terms of the journey of a startup; validating the idea, audiences, identity, storytelling, et cetera. But I think a big one to talk about now and potentially finish on, is the website. If you're considering starting a website, I always like to say that it all starts with a good website and the foundations of that. Is there is anything specifically in the Garage that you discuss when people are at that stage of creating their website?

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Yeah. So when I talk about websites with the startups and the people at the Digital Garage, a lot of them haven't yet got websites. They've got an idea, but they haven't got a website. Some may have wire frames if they're a little bit more advanced, and some may have websites but they're not yet working very well for them. So the things that we tend to talk about is, what makes a good website for a startup? One of the things is accessibility. Are they able to add their own content, feel in control of their website? Because oftentimes what they're feeling is a lack of control. And this is what they're showcasing to the world, it's their home, it's their store, it's their business. It's their literal entire business in a digital format before so many people. So we talk about the layout, what's important in terms of where the call-to-action buttons should be. We talk about what the value proposition should be within the website. Because often they don't know what they're serving, who they're serving, why they're serving and what they're serving basically. So those key points we discuss. And then in terms of actual the CMS, the systems they use, I try and point them, as I say, to something like WordPress that would be more comfortable.

But quite often they use Wix or Shopify, and that's because it's a click and build. They think it's easy to make. But the downside of that is, it's not actually telling the story of their business very well. Now, they don't need to go big scale and get a bespoke, beautifully full-made business at day one. But they don't want to give a bad impression of their business, so they want to get the key fundamentals down. So it's important perhaps to talk to somebody who knows about that and get some clarity around the key messaging, the key layout and the key visuals, and the way to use it when they've got it for themselves.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, it's really interesting. I have a little plug there. We actually did a podcast episode specifically on website fundamentals. I think it was Blab number six, I think. So go have a listen to that if you want a bit more information in terms of what those fundamentals are. A big point that you mentioned was content. I think obviously content is king. It can help kickstart ... these guys all explain how that kickstarts into the SEO journeys, if you want to call it that.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

And even just the simple things like ease of use navigation. If it's not clear what that business is there to do, the value proposition, if it's not clear how to use it, then people will just go. But the speed as well, they've got to land and be able to use it right away. Because if not, people don't have that ... what, it's eight seconds they've got in terms of attention spans, if you're lucky. So with that short level of attention span, you've really got to capture your market.

Tom Haslam - (host):

It's getting shorter as well, isn't it?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Shorter and shorter, yeah.

Tom Haslam - (host):

The faster everybody's websites are getting, people are being left behind

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Yeah, it's a massive thing.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

And social as well, it causes, fatigue is such a big thing. It's no coincidence that even YouTube have introduced YouTube Shorts now, people, their attention span is so, so small. So you've got to make sure you capture them really quickly.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Well, we've outsourced our brains, haven't we, to the Internet in many ways. It's very useful for us to be able to be the oracle on anything. We can even ask a machine to tell us the answer, rather than even type. So it does get to the point where we need to be able to communicate very quickly our message and know what that message is.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Definitely. I'm going to talk about SEO. SEO is a massive topic that I don't understand to the level that these guys do. But would you say that the quickest win that new startup businesses can do to kickstart their SEO content journey would be to write blogs?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

There's a few things in there.

Tom Haslam - (host):

The word quick's a bit deceiving there-

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

Yeah, probably not a word that you should associate with.

Tom Haslam - (host):

... because it's a long game.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

It's a long game. There's maybe a few things to consider as well. So the first thing I would do ... knowing what I've learned now over the past 20 odd years, the first thing I would do if I was a startup is, I'd analyse competitor websites. SEO can be complicated in the sense that if you really wanted to do deep keyword research and start understanding about intent and conversion rates of particular keywords, things like that, you're going to have a difficult time doing that unless you understand it. However, what you're not going to have a difficult time doing, is going to your competitor's websites, taking a note of the pages on their website and trying to spot the kind of keywords that they're targeting. Doing a Google search, search for those keywords, check whether you think that aligns with your product, your service, have a look at the search results. And if it does, straightaway you've got a focus for each page. So that's where I'd start, to make sure that you're focusing on keywords that okay, you don't necessarily understand the value of those yet, or how many people are searching for them and things like that. But what you are doing is, you're sort of piggybacking on the work that competitors have already done.

Now, you can use that as part of your content, as part of your page structure but also blogs, yeah. Blogging is an area that I think is often misunderstood. Businesses ... I know we've covered this in earlier podcasts but just let's touch on it now, because it is quite important for startups. They will get given advice quite frequently that they should blog, for example. Now, what that means is going to be different to everybody. But what it means to a startup is, okay, well every week I need to write something, or every two weeks or every month, or whatever it might be. The problem is, what they naturally write about always comes back to themselves or why they're so good or why their product is so good, instead of the problems that their potential customers face. And that's a big difference because all you're doing is shouting about yourself, instead of helping people. However, if you start writing blogs about how you help people and the challenges that your product or service helps solve, that is a very good thing to do from an SEO perspective.

Tom Haslam - (host):

It's also worth mentioning, when it comes to competitors, don't just look at the people that you consider competitors because they might not be doing everything right or anything right. Whereas, if you search Google for the terms that your products or services relate to, they're the competitors that are doing it right. They're the competitors that Google consider as competitors. And obviously if they're ranking one, two and three, you know they're doing something right.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Well, in the SEO world, it's interesting, because you can have lots of conversations with any business and more often than not who they consider their competitors aren't always necessarily who an SEO would consider their competitors. So if you're searching for a key word, your competitors from an SEO perspective are the people ranking high for that keyword. Now, they may or may not be who you would consider your traditional competitors, but that also, that's another way of gaining insights into keywords. So if you put into Google whatever your product might be, you can describe it the best way you can, Google will also give you suggestions. Did you mean X? Or you might also like X, people also searched for X. If you use those as well, that's good data to start implementing into your content.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Definitely. I think there's been some interesting topics that we've talked about there. There's loads of stuff for startups to consider. I think the point that you made, Annie, with regards to UX and understanding that journey that the user might take on the website, is important. Ultimately, there's lots to consider from an SEO perspective as well. I think this pod has been enjoyable.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

It has.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Have you enjoyed it?

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

It's always fun at Marketing Labs.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Always. Never a dull moment here, is there?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

No. And it's great to have Annie back, a special friend of Marketing Labs.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Thank you for joining us.

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Thank you for having me.

Tom Haslam - (host):

We hope you can come and join us again-

Annie Gilbert - (guest):

Yeah, that would be nice.

Tom Haslam - (host):

... at some point.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

That would be nice.

Tom Haslam - (host):

We'll finish there.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Cheers, Steven.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

I've enjoyed sitting here on the sidelines just listening in and learning from Annie. It's been nice.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Very enjoyable having you on, Annie. Thank you very much. We hope you've all enjoyed listening and we'll see you next time. Well, that wraps up another Marketing Blabs episode. Thank you very much for listening. We've left no stone unturned in this episode, from the validation of your entrepreneurial idea to the art of telling your brand story, right the way through to website basics, SEO and networking. We hope that everything we've discussed in this episode will help set your startup on the right path to success. Remember, every big venture starts with a simple idea, and with the right strategy you can make that idea a reality. So until next time, keep that creativity flowing and let the world know about your incredible ideas. I'm Tom, signing off. Until next time. See you.

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