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6 ways to grow and start a business on YouTube

Struggling to get your business started? Start your business on YouTube. YouTube is an easy, accessible way to not just start, but grow your brand, too.

January 24, 2020 by Taylor Barbieri

You want to start a business, but the whole starting a blog thing isn’t for you. 

You know that video, especially YouTube, is exploding in popularity. 

So you’re wondering if you should start a YouTube channel to start and grow your business. But then again, isn’t that just for big-time creators who already have name recognition?

Not quite.

Solopreneurs can start successful businesses on YouTube. You don’t need video production chops or fancy equipment to do it, either. 

Even better, you can use YouTube to grow your business beyond infancy to a profit-generating machine. 

Before we get too far into the weeds about growing a business on YouTube, let’s first cover starting a business with YouTube.

How to start your business with YouTube

You can start your business on YouTube by using it to:

  1. Identify your audience and competitors
  2. Grow your email list and build a sales funnel
  3. Publish content and increase brand awareness

You know that we love a good deep dive at Podia, so let’s dig into what each of these entails.  

Step #1: Conduct market research via online communities 

Starting a business on YouTube isn’t much different from starting a business with a blog. 

You’ll need to first understand the content your audience wants. Viewers use YouTube for a variety of things. 

86% of viewers said they often use YouTube to learn new things.  Another 37% go to improve their professional or academic skills. 

90% of consumers say they discover new brands or products on YouTube. 

Therefore, you’ll want to make sure you create in-demand content for your audience. 

Happy viewers may one day become happy customers with a little nurturing.

To understand what your audience is looking for, start by watching videos from influencers in your niche. 

62% of consumers follow influencers on YouTube, so it’s definitely a great place to start. 

What struggles or concerns do they commonly bring up? What products do they recommend? What kind of language do they use when talking to their followers and about your industry?

Besides searching through YouTube itself, you can use tools like Mention to find YouTube influencers

Next, watch product reviews and other videos from people who fit your buyer persona. 

See what they have to say about brands in your field and what qualities make them love or move on from certain businesses. 

As an example, if you’ve noticed many videos where customers complain about a brand’s customer service, that’s a flashing sign that you should invest in customer service.

Next, watch your competitors’ content to see where their strengths and weaknesses lie. 

For instance, you may notice they share lots of expert-level content, but not much to help customers who are new to the field and searching for information. 

Make sure to study the discussions in the comments section and discussion boards, too. 

Let’s say you wanted to create a course about becoming a digital nomad and traveling the world. 

You can visit Reddit’s Digital Nomad subreddit to learn about your audience’s opinions of other brands, influencers, and products in that field. 

If you can, join the discussions so you can ask questions and get more detailed feedback than by reading alone. 

Lastly, you can use tools like TubeBuddy and vidIQ to identify keywords and trends to build content around.

Now, with research out of the way, you’re ready to create and publish your content. 

But you don’t want your videos to sit idle on YouTube. 

Instead, you’ll want to use it to increase awareness of your brand. Coincidentally, that’s what we’ll cover next. 

Step #2: Increase brand awareness with YouTube

67% of businesses use YouTube to distribute their content. 

One reason why YouTube may be so popular is that it’s a visual search engine where users can discover and learn about your business. 

To increase brand awareness for your business, make content that is easy for YouTube to recommend and easy for viewers to enjoy. 

First off, make your videos keyword-optimized, so it’s clear to viewers what they’re about. Make sure to include keywords in your video title and have a filled out description, too. 

This YouTube SEO from HubSpot can help get you started. 

Next, make sure your videos answer your audience’s questions. You can find these questions through a mix of customer and keyword research. 

After that, cater your video length to your audience’s preferences. Having a super short or super long video won’t necessarily guarantee you more views and likes. 

So how long should it be?

One study found the average video length across industries as of December 2018 was 11.7 minutes

Backlinko found that the average length of a YouTube video on the first search results page was 14 minutes and 50 seconds

Besides that, many large YouTube creators are making their videos longer to increase their chances of getting recommended by YouTube. 

That doesn’t mean your videos should be 11.7 minutes or 14 minutes and 50 seconds, however. 

Make your videos as long as they need to be to answer a question. 

At the same time, make your videos as concise as possible. Your viewers’ time is precious, and making videos that go on and on won’t endear them to you. 

Additionally, only 52% of viewers will watch a video all the way through.

Making your videos a viewer-friendly length -- and entertaining and informative -- could increase the number of people who watch your full video. 

Use animations or text overlays to make your content easier to digest and watch, as well. 

For example, Podia included this text overlay at the beginning of our 40 digital product ideas video as a brief introduction to the main video content. 

If you can, share a transcript of your video on your blog. This can help people find your video through search engines. 

You could also create social media videos to promote your new videos. Sef Chang of House of Royalties creates one-minute videos for Facebook, Instagram, and email for his YouTube videos. 

As an example, he created this Instagram post to promote this YouTube video about licensing a product in five stages. 

The final way to increase brand awareness through YouTube videos is by publishing content regularly. 

Don’t feel pressured to produce videos every day, especially when you’re just starting out. One video per week is much more practical for smaller creators starting out on YouTube. 

You can repurpose your existing webinars, live streams, and social media videos into YouTube videos, too. 

But how much content is “enough”?

You’ll only have enough content once you’ve definitely answered all of your customers’ questions. That could take years to do. 

But for reference, businesses with 0 to 30 employees had an average of 174 videos

With a steady publishing schedule of one to two videos per week, plus bonus content from webinars and live streams, you could probably reach that number within two years. 

However, don’t pressure yourself to meet an arbitrary quota. 

It’s much more important to answer questions relevant to your audience -- and answer them well -- than to try to publish a certain number of videos. 

Besides, creating videos is only half the battle. What comes after creation -- our next step -- is just as important.

Step #3: Lead viewers to your sales funnel 

You don’t want to have people watch your videos and just leave. 

Otherwise, you’ll have little site traffic or sales to show for it. 

With 82% of global IP traffic expected to be video by 2022, you’ll want to start incorporating more video into your marketing processes, anyway. 

To get viewers to take action, you’ll need an email list and sales funnel. 

You’ll want to have an email list so people who want to learn more about your brand can receive personalized marketing information. 

A sales funnel can also give you a structured process for helping viewers become leads and customers, too. 

Let’s take a look at setting up a sales funnel with YouTube. 

The basics of a YouTube-based sales funnel are as follows:

  1. A viewer watches your video
  2. They then click on your landing page link in your video description to receive a free offer
  3. They join your email list and receive their free download
  4. You send them educational and informative content
  5. They eventually become your customer

Preparing your sales funnel will go in the opposite order, however. 

First, set up an onboarding series with one of these beginner-friendly email marketing platforms. You’ll want these first few emails to welcome viewers to your brand.

Use your onboarding series to tell them more about what they can expect from your emails. You can also point them towards older content they may enjoy.

Outdoorsy’s email is a great example of an email that introduces subscribers to their business. 

With your email list set up, you should prepare your lead magnet.

A lead magnet is an email course, ebook, or other digital download to convince people who are on the fence to sign up. 

Lindsay Does Languages’ lead magnet is free access to the Little Language Library, for example. 

Visitors can access a lead magnet by joining your email list on a landing page, such as this landing page from Wyzowl.

The sole purpose of a landing page (in most cases) is to get someone to join your email list. 

You can create a landing page using any of these top landing page builders. This guide can teach you how to create a landing page in less than an hour, too. 

To make things easier on yourself, sign up for Podia. On Podia, you can build your landing page and email list -- and sell your digital products -- from one place. 

However, don’t include multiple offers on your landing page.

Your landing page should have one purpose and offer, such as for viewers to access an ebook or email course. 

Having too many offers can confuse viewers and may stop them from taking action. 

Research from Unbounce found that landing pages with one main call to action (CTA) had the best conversion rates. Those with five or more CTAs had the lowest conversion rates. 

Lastly, include a link to your lead magnet and landing page in your video description. 

There you have it -- you’ve created a sales funnel in just a few steps. 

As your business grows, you can add more tools to your sales funnel like paid ads or influencer partnerships. 

In the meantime, a landing page, lead magnet, and onboarding series should do just fine. 

In fact, a simpler sales funnel may be preferable. 

Let’s check out a real-world example. The Murray Group Insurances created a series of low-budget videos to answer viewers’ questions, such as the video below. 

The insurance company went on to earn $5,000 from people calling in after downloading a lead magnet and calling the company. 

With a little hard work, you too could have an effective YouTube-based sales funnel in place. 

Now that we’ve covered ways YouTube can help you start your business, let’s delve into how it can help you grow your business.

How to grow your business with YouTube

There are three ways to use YouTube to grow your business, including:

  1. Testing product ideas
  2. Building brand awareness and sales
  3. Reaching customers at all stages of the buying journey

Let’s take a look at each of these in-depth. 

Method #1: Customer validation 

You shouldn’t act on your digital product ideas -- until you get customer validation first, that is. 

40% of consumers worldwide said they purchased products they discovered on YouTube. 

With a buying intent that high, you won’t want to promote an unproven product that could leave a sour taste in early buyers’ mouths. 

Indeed, you should test your product ideas with your audience. 

One way to validate your idea is by first collecting feedback from your followers. 

Then create a basic version of your product and release it for testing (here’s how you can create a product prototype in one week or less for extra information). 

If they respond well to it, ask what you could do to improve it. Repeat this process until you have a full-fledged product ready for sale. 

Another approach is to give away your product for free and assess users’ reactions. 

Take Christine Hronec as an example. 

Christine used YouTube to test several of her product and service ideas. 

She used this YouTube video to announce that she would coach four women for free for her “Epic Accountability” challenge. 

In exchange, the women had to upload their weekly FaceTime phone calls and vlog about their experiences. 

This approach was supposed to teach viewers what it was like to participate in her program. 

Christine’s approach was clever given how popular product reviews are on YouTube. 

Over 50,000 years of product review videos were watched on mobile on YouTube between 2015 and 2017. 

Besides free coaching, Christine also gave away free body-type assessments. 

She received thousands of emails from interested viewers. Christine said that 50% of those initial inquiries purchased something from her. 

Lastly, Christine gave away a budget meal plan that she would have usually charged at least $100 for. 

To receive the meal plan, viewers had to join her list. Her email list has grown five times and saw a 25% increase in sales per campaign. 

Varun Neghandi followed a similar approach as Christine’s. To validate his business idea, he held four in-person workshops and saw 94 attendees. 

Varun’s workshops were a hit with attendees. On a five-point scale, attendees ranked the workshops as a 4.5 on average in terms of helping them. 

You could use in-person events to validate your product idea like Varun did. 

You could also validate it through live online events on YouTube like webinars or masterminds. 

A third way to test your product is by bundling your most popular content into a digital product and selling it from your storefront. 

(Don’t have a product yet? Then check out this bootcamp -- it should help!)

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If your audience responds well to your bundle, you could expand it into a larger course or download. If not, you can go back to the drawing board without having misspent any time or money. 

Here’s what you should take away about product testing:

You can use YouTube to validate your product ideas. Your YouTube videos can either serve as announcements and promotions for your product idea or even be used as the prototype itself. 

To expose more people to your products, look into YouTube ads. 

Method #2: Use YouTube ads to increase awareness and sales

YouTube ads are a fantastic way to bring more traffic to your channel and business. 

Even better, YouTube advertising doesn’t have to be TV-commercial quality to woo your viewers. You can shoot professional-quality video on your smartphone with a basic at-home set up. 

There are six main ad types to choose from. Many of these ads are video ads, though Google offers non-video options, as well. 

Google Text ads, such as this ad from Trunk Club, can appear in the YouTube search results page. 

But just what should you promote with those ad types?

Your YouTube channel and website are a good place to start. 

Honey used a simple 41-second ad to explain the benefits of their service and convince viewers to download their browser extension.  

YouTube ads could also spotlight your product and its benefits. 

This ad for the Dyson Airwrap explained how their product worked.

Likewise, Halls clearly outlined the use and benefit of using their Kids Cough & Sore Throat Pops in a six-second ad. 

Within those six seconds, Halls outlined the use (caring for a sick child) and the benefit of their product (not having a sick child cough on you). 

Grammarly created a longer ad. 

However, their approach was similar to Halls -- they used a story to outline the uses for and benefits of their product. 

Your ads could also promote upcoming webinars, sales, or other important brand events. 

Beyond YouTube ads’ versatility, they can be wildly effective, too.

83% of paid YouTube mobile advertising receive attention. That’s compared to 45% for TV advertising. 

Plus, you can target viewers based on specific criteria. This could help you send ads viewers are more likely to watch and engage with. 

OK, regardless of whether you use YouTube ads, our final strategy will help put new customers on the playing field for you -- every step of the way, in fact.

Method #3: Use YouTube to reach customers at all stages of the buyer’s journey

Businesses can use YouTube to reach and convert customers at all points in the buyer’s journey.  

The easiest way to reach customers at all levels of buying intent is by releasing educational and entertaining content. 

Consider The Organized Soprano as an example. She created a video on how to clean and organize bathrooms

This content would be great for customers getting into personal organization who aren’t yet ready to work with an organizer. 

For consideration and decision stage customers, you could share case studies, product demos, Q&As, and the like. 

This Q&A session from The Organized Soprano would be great consideration stage content, as would be this video where viewers can “go to work” with her. 

Having their questions answered and seeing The Organized Soprano could help viewers get to know and trust her. More trusting viewers could convert into customers later on. 

Webinars and other live-streamed content work well for consideration and decision stage YouTube content, too. 

Justin Jackson shared this demo video of how podcast websites and integrations worked with his company, Transistor

While you can -- and should -- produce as much content as possible for YouTube, it’s fine if you want some help. 

24% of marketers said a lack of content was a concern for them. 

To help your brand, you could share user-generated content (UGC) from your followers. 

UGC is simply any content your audience makes about your company, such as product reviews or comparisons of your brand to others. 

UGC won’t always be as polished as your brand content, but that can be a good thing. 

48% of marketers said UGC can help to humanize their marketing. Another 73% of marketers agree that UGC makes marketing more authentic.

44% said it could support their marketing campaigns, too. 

Like any piece of good content, UGC can help out viewers at every stage of the funnel. UGC from your customers could introduce your brand to viewers who may not otherwise have learned about you. 

It can also encourage would-be customers who are thinking of buying from you to go ahead and make a purchase. 

Basically: 

The best way to reach would-be customers at all stages of making a purchasing decision is by releasing high-quality content to answer their questions. Use UGC from your customers from time to time, too. 

And with that, you'll be on a steady path towards growing your business with YouTube. 

Use YouTube to boost your business

People don’t just go to YouTube to pass the time or get a chuckle. More and more consumers are using YouTube as a way to discover new brands and get help with their concerns. 

You don’t have to be an established business to reap YouTube’s benefits, either. 

Creators can start their businesses on YouTube by using the platform to: 

  1. Identify their audience and competition 
  2. Grow their email lists and develop a simple sales funnel
  3. Share content and raise brand awareness 

But you can keep that momentum going on YouTube, too. Specifically, you could grow your business and earn more sales on YouTube by using it to: 

  1. Validate your product ideas
  2. Increase brand awareness and sales
  3. Reach customers all along the buying journey 

With so much to gain and so little to lose from joining YouTube, don’t let self-doubt hold you back any longer. 

Start your business on YouTube today, and you’ll be miles ahead of where you were yesteryear.