Startup companies face one of the most difficult marketing battles any company can face: Getting started. Most businesses, even those that have focused very little on marketing, have a starting place. A basic pool of customers and a brand that at least a few people recognize. As a startup, you’re building awareness and reputation from the ground up. And probably with a small team on a shoe-string budget to boot.
We know what that’s like. We’ve seen the roller coaster startup experiences and we know how tough building marketing momentum can be. Which is exactly why we’re here today to talk about 6 different ways to optimize your startup marketing campaign to keep your budget low and see increasingly satisfying results.
Today’s points aren’t your standard how-to-market tips. But tips on how to use those tips to your startup team’s best advantage.
Never forget just how many channels for free advertising there are. The modern online social culture means that you can spread awareness, engagement, and build a brand community without spending a single penny on ads, premium business accounts, or consultants. It’s rare that this is the fastest way to get ahead, but it does mean that you can use multiple digital channels to start your marketing campaign essentially for free.
That said, remember that even ‘free’ channels still require hundreds of hours of paid and/or volunteer work creating content, sharing popular messages, and interacting with the growing online community. If you’re trying to tightly budget your marketing, choose your free channels wisely based on how well each suite your brand and the amount of time you can realistically dedicate to your campaign. You can also spread out your content calendar to make time to cover more channels.
There are dozens of humming social media platforms at any given time, with the three remaining Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Each has their own style, but you will probably want to invest in all three no matter what other free channels your startup campaigns with. As a bonus, most of your team will already also have an account on all three. So they will be familiar with the platform’s basic functions and can choose to jump in with personal or work accounts.
LinkedIn is where businesses and professionals meet. It is more useful for B2B brands but any business can benefit from having a good reputation among colleagues and cross-industry professionals who populate LinkedIn. Here, things go at business-pace. Which means that some interactions and industries expect lightning-responses, while others log in twice a year or less. Some people live on LinkedIn, constantly reading articles and commenting. Some don’t log in unless they’re currently job-hunting.
On LinkedIn, the focus is professional reputation, for both your business and each person on your team. In your professional personas, not the wacky social media personalities you may put on for the audiences. Share industrial, thought-leadership, and intellectual content on LinkedIn at a slower pace. Reach out to targeted accounts and respond quickly to messages, but don’t expect responses from dormant accounts.
Pinterest is another odd member of the social media family. Because it serves an interesting niche: image collectors. most people have a few collections of cat pictures, DIY project ideas, or cool desktop backgrounds. Pinterest is the social media platform for building, sharing, and searching through these image collections. It’s also, incidentally, a really convenient way to host images on a website or through a forum post.
So you have nothing to lose from building fun /inspiring/iconographical collections on Pinterest. If they’re good, Pinterest users will add them to their collections and your reputation will grow.
There are also several free blogging platforms that also make it possible to search blogs for content. If you aren’t budgeting for a website yet, or want a completely separate blog for development reasons, a hosted blog is a pretty good alternative. Many blog sites will let you use a custom URL and give you a lot of design control for your pages. And users of these popular blog platforms will already know how to navigate around.
Email marketing is a huge category. And just like SEO and Social Media marketing, it is possible to start small and essentially free. For a small team using email marketing, be cautious about email-blaster software. The last thing you want is for your young IP to get spam-flagged by accident.
Your two best alternatives are key-account targeting and personalizing small targeted email lists rather than hitting large generalized groups. The details, however, will depend mostly on your brand and the kind of message/awareness/leads you’re trying to generate.
On a final note, smaller websites and bloggers may be willing to work with you in trade for cross-publicity. When you’re still marketing as a small fish, it can help to team up, sharing your limited resources for bigger cross-promotion campaigns and events.
Now that we’ve covered the free stuff, let’s talk PPC. In the shortest possible tip: Yes, it is worth investing in. Thousands of brands have reported that correct use of services like AdWords and Facebook targeted ads have multiplied their startup pool of customers and leads. However, not everyone is born knowing how to use PPC dollars for actual benefit. You need the right content, links, landing pages, and links on your landing pages. A full-funnel prepared to handle your PPC.
So for most small brands, it’s also worth investing in some PPC consultation of one sort or another. Whether that’s bringing one onto the team, hiring a consultant, partnering with a PPC service, or working with proven software. PPC is such a huge category of low-cost and potentially very high ROI that you really want to strategize carefully where you put your budget. You may be able to afford to experiment and splash around a little, but what you really want is to see the best possible result for every click-dollar.
Third party platforms are a mixed bag of benefits and problems/costs. Hotels and restaurants, for example, usually have to pay a steep commission for customers brought in through platforms like Expedia or GrubHub. Platforms that also ‘steal’ customers who might find their way to your brand-hosted site and book without the commission.
Yelp has a reputation for manipulating which reviews they leave up and which reviews they hide and remove from your aggregate star rating. Generally, brands that pay their rising marketing consultant fees also see more favorable review approvals. So while Yelp is often necessary, be wary.
Google My Business has a generally sparkling reputation, with some reports of sluggish administration. It’s increasingly popular as Google Maps becomes the leading free web/app navigation option, but is still irregularly populated and reviewed. Some places have thousands of reviews, many have fewer than five.
Amazon plays by its own rules. You have to use their payment system and you’ll get better results the more you integrate Amazon programs and platforms into your process. They’re pretty helpful, but the rules change with some frequency and there are some areas that are hard to get responses about. DO be on Amazon if you sell a product. But stay on your toes.
Your brand identity matters more today than it did ten or twenty years ago. Every brand is trying to be recognizable but there are so many brands that for most people, small brands blur in their minds. Your brand needs to be distinct, memorable, and relatable. The best way to do this is to incorporate your brand identity into everything you do. Every label, every product description, every thank-you card and scrap of packaging.
Become memorable in a way that is so pervasive that it’s not pushy. This requires you to have a very strong brand identity. Is your content written in a playful voice, from a doctor’s perspective, or from colleague-to-colleague? What is your brand’s complete color palette? How does your brand prioritize customer service, shipping speed, or product longevity?
Build your brand identity, then work it into everything you do. Including your company culture, as a startup, this is the perfect time to do so.
Micro-influencers are bloggers, podcasters, home video hosts, and Instagram stars. They can be anyone from 14-year-olds to grandparents. Their content can range anywhere from cat videos to advanced industry tech talks. And the biggest power you have with a micro-influencer is their genuine enthusiasm to be using your product or to be an honorary member of your team.
Look for micro-influencers who aren’t yet working with other brands, who still consider themselves relatively ‘undiscovered’ like you and make them your startup partners. You can also find a lot to gain from experienced micro-influencers who will gladly give you a mention, but your strongest allies will be influencers who build their own reputation while working with your brand to create an experience for their audience and yours.
A lot has been said about video marketing for big and small brands. There’s no denying that video in marketing is powerful and that there are literally dozens of ways to put video to use. We can’t tell you in a generalized article what the best video strategy will be for your brand. But we can tell you that you will shoot at least three times more footage than you use. Maybe as much as twenty times, and that’s okay.
In the digital age, ‘film’ is practically free. Instead of worrying about perfect shots, shoot everything. Shoot your brainstorming sessions, shoot eight different versions of each video idea. Get video of the office cat or mascot toy. Get video of your staff using your product or providing service. Expect to cut most of it but in those shots will be some incredible gems that may become cornerstones of future video marketing strategies. Not to mention, online communities love ‘behind the scenes’ content from trendy rising startups.
Marketing your startup isn’t just about going down a checklist of marketing channels and SEO keywords. Doing it right involves strategy, self-awareness, and the ability to run with any opportunity that crosses your path. For more insights into low-budget, high-return startup marketing techniques, contact us today!