Marketing For Startups
Marketing can be a tricky game for new and growing startup. Often times it might seem like the cost of marketing efforts outweighs the benefits that it brings. Luckily, there are many effective ways to greatly expand your reach and rewards from marketing. All it requires is a well made marketing strategy and an innovative mind! At the end of the day, whether you have a funding backed startup or just pulling together , you must market your business.
Do Startups Have a Marketing Problem?
Startups view marketing as an expense, and that’s a huge problem.
Take a look at , established businesses are spending 13% of their yearly revenue on marketing budgets. That consists of ad expenses, technology, staff salaries, and whatever overhead you can image. When marketing for startups you need to guarantee results for that kind of budgetary spend.
Unfortunately, I’m constantly walking into smaller marketing departments that intend to nickle and dime every last project. That’s the quickest way drastically drop your return on investment potential. It’s counter intuitive, don’t you think? There’s no way to track what’s working, why it’s working, and whether something could be working better.
Marketing is not an expense. So, when it’s treated that way it’s become a failed sunk cost. All you’ve done is thrown money into a black hole and there's no way to get it back. That being said, there are low cost options that have time and time again produced results for emerging companies.
Here the top 12 inexpensive ways to promote your startup effectively.
1. Create and Send an Email Newsletter.
The cost is your time, but the benefits are as big as your database. You will position yourself as an expert, and increase the chances to get direct business or referrals from customers who see your name often. Setup a schedule for content and when you plan on promoting it. Offer information to help your audience, as well as promote your business. A newsletter is the perfect time to up sell current clients and find new ones.
MailChimp is a top email marketing service that let's you get started for free. Remember when creating a newsletter that this is another way for you to develop a personal connection with your reader. While you do want to provide promotions, offers, and information in your newsletter, you also want to make sure that the writing is conversational, light, and makes for a quick read. With the rise of mobile devices a large amount of viewers will only quickly read the email over their phone.
A Kissmetrics article makes the great suggestion to use an autoresponder in your email marketing. This will allow you to keep a more consistent connection with your readers, so when you want to reach out to alert them of a new offer or promotion, you already have an established connection to fall back on.
2. Host a Contest.
There’s nothing better than a contest or promotion to get people excited and engaged with your brand. Social media provides the perfect platform to host contests and promotions and provides a boosted reach your database can't simulate. Before you set up your contest make sure you spend some time drafting an outline of your methods and goals for that will fit well into your larger social media-marketing plan. Why are you hosting this contest? Are you looking to reach new people, or revive interest from your own base? These are important questions to figure out before you get started.
From there, make sure you are crafting a promotion that is easy to enter and easy to share. Tell the viewer what to do and they are more likely to do it. Make the text and associated image clear and precise.
You want to make sure that you can reach as many people as possible. Platforms like socialtools can help to streamline the process of creating various contests and social promotions. This is a great way to spark interest in your company without aggressively getting in front of people’s face. Incentivizing brand engagement can spark new possibilities for you company.
3. Conduct a Survey.
Various services like Survey Monkey and Zoomerang, allow you to host basic online surveys for free. These can be valuable tools for obtaining customer feedback on current or future products or service, and gauging the effectiveness of your website and marketing campaigns.
Not sure how to get the necessary responses for your survey? Google Surveys will help you generate an audience just like ad targeting that will effectively reach the people you care about. It's easy enough to limit searches based on interests, demographics, location, and psychographics. While slightly more expensive, paying to reach the right audience when doing market research can make or break your product.
4. Seek Out Reviews.
If you have customers who are pleased with your business, ask them to submit reviews to popular directories such as Google Business, Yelp, or Glassdoor. If you find yourself in a niche service based business listing sites such as Angie’s List or ServiceMagic can draw in many interested customers, as well. As opposed to wider directories such as Yelp or Foursquare, these lists are carefully vetted to include only approved vendors, so your mention represents a solid endorsement that is sure to accelerate sales.
Don’t forget to ask for reviews openly in your content and various interactions with your clients. Make this request honest and open so your audience will be able to understand that your startup values their thoughts and opinions, and not just a positive response.
5. Partnerships and Co-marketing.
Share cost and rewards with a complementary, non-competing business. For example, if you are a software provider you could create a partner program for resellers and consultants. These types of companies help your customers transition into using your product effectively. Ulimiately, your customers are happier because they get the most out of your product with services packaged around it's power. The resellers get a value add to their services and will often bring in clients that never heard of your startup.
6. Utilize Social Media.
If you have not started using social media for your business, you could potentially be missing a fast and cost-effective way to reach your target audience. Not only has social media become the most commonly used form of online marketing, but your customers now expect it. If your company does not have a Business Facebook Page, for example, you could be losing a lot of business to your competitors who do.
Many companies create a Facebook page and/or a LinkedIn profile, and then never think about them again. If you are not updating your profile, posting, or crafting regular tweets, your not getting the most out of your social media presence. As with any social media marketing activities, make sure you outline your goals and create a plan before jumping in. It may be a quick and easy medium, but you do not want to cut corners when it comes to a well-organized, strategic approach.
Depending on your industry, Facebook might not fit your ideal customer. If that's the case no amount of Facebook posts, engagements, or likes will drive new business. Some startups feel they need a social presence on every platform thats hot. That attitude only creates dillution. Focus on the social sites that are home to your buyers and aim for homeruns. Facebook is only one of many, wade through Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, or Quora and discover what types of interactions take place in each before starting.
7. Offer a Money-back Guarantee.
Consider a strong guarantee as part of your marketing plan. While most businesses are afraid that too many people will ask for their money back, studies have shown that only a handful of people will ever take up on this offer (unless, of course, you have poor service or a defective product). A strong guarantee makes it less threatening for people to consider your offer. You lower the barriers that prevent people from doing business with you.
One of the best examples is Costco's money back guarantee for the lifetime of most products. It's created an unquantifiable amount of good will and word of mouth business for them. Yes, some people take advantage of the offer and bring back items that have been misused, however that's the cost of business.
By removing the risk to buyers through guarantees, your startup will stand out. When it's easy for people to buy from you your sales will increase. Many companies have money back guarantees that they try to hide from buyers by including these guarantees in fine print, if you’re going to offer a money-back guarantee to your buyers be outright with the offer. Trying to hide your actions takes away from the positive press and trust that can be developed by a guarantee.
8. Make Your Support for Others Known.
Consider aligning your company’s business model with support for a certain cause or supporting another organization. Actively supporting a cause, gives your company plenty of opportunities to host events and fundraisers that can further your brand image and help you to create connections with a like-minded audience. Furthermore, sponsoring an organization is a valuable way to have your brand image consistently spread to a wide audience.
9. Speaking Engagements.
In your local area alone, there are probably hundreds of business, community, and social groups that are looking for speakers. Many of these groups offer excellent opportunities for you to display your expertise while providing valuable information. Find groups that contain your target market, and speak to them about something that interests them, and relates to your business. You will be perceived as an expert and develop a new referral channel.
Another cost effective method of promoting your business is hosting a webinar. Webinars are great ways to establish your authority in your industry. In addition they are great form of cost-effective brand promotion. Webinars themselves do not take much money to host, and in the process you are promoting your brand to your audience by effectively speaking on a topic of interest. A webinar is the digital version of speaking engagements.
If you feel like you need a bit of practice before you get to the stage of hosting webinars, attend plenty of networking events and practice telling your story to listeners and interacting with others. Search for gatherings of like-minded individuals and come prepared to speak concisely about your brand and business goals.
10. Create Testimonials.
What is more powerful—you taking about your business or someone else raving about it? The main reason for using them is that they help establish credibility and give your startup the opportunity to showcase results from a product or service. The goal is to help you convert more of your visitors into customers when used correctly.
A strong testimonial signals you understand what a prospective buyer wants and needs. It gives them social proof that helps to break down the barriers of purchase.
11. Send Personal Thank You Notes or Gifts.
Have you ever known a person who got mad when you thanked them? Email thank you notes are fine, and hand-written, snail mail note are even better. Because, who does that in the digital age? Talk about standing out, above and beyond the competition.
Also, you have to decide whether to send a gift. A small reminder that you're grateful for their business and will be around next time they need to make a purchase. Some businesses are not allowed to accept gifts due to bribery regulations, so be careful. However, a thank you note is always welcomed.
12. Court Local Media.
Putting out a press release may seem old school, however it works on several levels. You are able to maximize reach beyond social media and potentially penetrate different demographic markets with prospective customers. When done right, a press release can drive targeted traffic to your website with the intention to buy. Referral traffic is one of the highest converting digital marketing channels.
Getting local media coverage is often much easier than national. Everyone loves a good local story. To get coverage from the local media, whether from the town newspaper, from TV or radio stations, or from trade journals, you need a fresh, timely story. It is usually worthwhile to hire an experienced publicist to position the stories, target appropriate media representative, write, and send press releases. Many public relation firms force you into bloated contracts, where as at Matrix we've implimented a pay for performance public relations program that benefits startups on a shoestring budget.
Marketing for startups should be seen as an asset. You need to invest in marketing. You need to give it time to grow and prosper, not cut it off at the knees. Slashing a marketing budget only brings short term liquidity. What you’re really doing is shooting the future sales pipeline right in the foot. No leads means no sales, no sales means no money, and no money means see ya later.
Don’t nickel and dime your marketing. It hurts you, it hurts your team, and it hurts your bottom line. But, mostly it hurts you.
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Do you have a tip to share? Or perhaps we missed something? Let us know in the comment section below. And take a look at some of our free Marketing Resources.