Visibility is a highly valuable currency in today’s business landscape even more valuable than it was just a few short years ago. Lifting businesses from the slums of internet obscurity to some form of visibility is not rocket science, in 2021, it has become a reasonably precise science.

For most startups who cannot afford to build an in-house marketing team, the duty is usually shifted to external digital marketing agencies. However, shifting the buck to a “recognized” agency doesn’t automatically solve all your problems as many startups have learned rather painfully.

I had a chat with Jonathan Jadali, a social media influencer and CEO of one of America’s leading Digital Marketing and PR Agencies; Ascend Agency. According to Jonathan, getting the right agency is only half of the job, startups need to engineer their internal operations and general business attitude so that they are not sabotaging all efforts to sustainably build visibility.

Jonathan admitted that after working with scores of brands, from fortune 500 companies to smaller startups, he has identified a few pain points that startups especially struggle with when starting to build a profile online. This article highlights those pain points.

1. Not Having A Voice

“Many startups want to devote wads of cash to PR and visibility efforts before they have even found the time to identify and define their voice in the industry. They have built a machine, but haven’t written a story to go with it” Jonathan Jadali

To gain brand visibility you must first have a defined brand, this is easy to comprehend with a straightforward exercise of logic. Jonathan explains that in his experience, some of the most problematic PR campaigns Ascend Agency has had to run are campaigns for brands that have not yet decided what their brand story is.

These brands are just looking to be “out there” and so they are not careful about what agencies they go to or what avenues these agencies use as long as it gets the word out. This could work in the short term and for a short time, but it almost always dries up after a while. It also rarely offers any reasonable ROI.

Targeted Marketing is the result of proper definition and in the long-term, the currency of visibility can only be built by having a clear vision, a defined brand voice, and by picking the right tools. In the words of Jonathan, “You should be looking to not just be present, but to obtain and hold people’s attention only a recognizable voice and an ongoing story can do that. At Ascend, we often help our clients develop that before we develop a PR plan”

2. Your Actual Service Can Wreck Your Visibility

“Imagine reading the grandest copy about a painting, the emotions it was meant to evoke and the sheer grandeur of its delivery only walk in and see a scary picture of silent duck hanging on the display wall… that’s what handling PR feels like for some startups at times” Jonathan Jadali

An agency’s ability to execute a stellar campaign is largely hinged on if the brand can back the claims up. You could get mentioned in the grandest spaces online and have stunning Ads running in the right places, but if your actual delivery for clients is a far cry from what you portray, your visibility is poised to backfire.

According to Jonathan, many startups do not yet know their capacity, how they would perform under the weight of stress and difficulties and so it is advisable for them to keep their promises few and simple.

One bad PR from an unsatisfied client can invalidate 10k Marketing dollars in a heartbeat. There are many ways to present your brand as reliable and valuable without posturing as the best thing since sliced bread.

Jonathan put it beautifully when he said; “It is far better to take people on a journey of your evolution than to claim to be evolved already”. A successful campaign is one that makes you show up in the right places and not one that makes exaggerates your abilities.

Most brands can only adequately size up their business capacity after 5-7 years of doing business. This is why Jonathan insists that at Ascend, the focus would remain on keeping it simple, targeted, and beautiful. Ascend has built a reputation over the years for doing just that for a myriad of startups and to great effect.

3. A Lack Of Connection

“Two routes exist in the mind of every startup; the route of profit and the route of notoriety, both routes often meet at certain points, but they are not quite the same. Building brand visibility requires catching people’s attention, sustaining it requires building connections even at the detriment of profit” Jonathan Jadali

The greatest drawback to building sustainable visibility and relevance according to Jonathan is not building a connected community from your leads. While most agencies who know their onions will succeed in getting you leads, it is largely your responsibility to harness them and build connections. This could be by building a vibrant online community, by email lists, or by any other means convenient to your brand.

Marketing cannot be totally relegated, and this is why brands like Ascend Agency strive to make their clients central to the campaign as much as possible. Jonathan puts it succinctly; “Talking about yourself in the right way and in the right places is the foundation of building visibility, but getting your clients to talk about you is the ultimate realm of visibility”.

His point is backed by statistics as the verifiable data shows that User Generated Content(UGC) is fast becoming the most effective marketing tool out there.  For UGC’s to be effective and to not feel forced, genuine connections must be built. Building these connections cost money and may take a startup farther away from the profit route that it was willing to go in the first place. However, as a long-term strategy, this pays off really well.

Standing aloof while an agency builds your visibility is the best recipe for long-term failure. Starting a business isn’t easy, but no one ever claimed it was. The internet makes it possible to get seen and heard, but only you can ensure that the message is worthwhile.