How to market your start-up on a shoestring budget
For start-ups, initial marketing activity is all about brand-building. It’s about raising your profile and laying the foundations for creating a desirable brand. You are your marketing department and your top priority is to get people talking about your brand.
But how do you do this? What are the best channels for getting your new product or service known and to start making sales? There is no magical, one-size-fits-all approach (sorry!), but know your target audience, be crystal clear on your messaging and objectives, and with a considered, consistent approach you will make some great headway.
Here are 5 top tips for getting your name out there on a shoestring budget:
1. Seek free PR
To achieve PR coverage, you don’t have to hire the services of an expensive PR agency, but you do have to be bold! You can use a variety of tools and techniques to build relationships with your target audience through mainstream media. Information communicated via these channels has a much bigger impact than paid advertising because consumers consider it to be more trustworthy and meaningful.
But how do you get started? Think about how your target audience consume media and who their key influencers are. Shortlist and make contact with the relevant publications or key influencers. Your goal is to get them to fall in love with your brand and get them talking about you. Be brave! Why not send them some product accompanied by a punchy, informative press release? Or if you are a service provider, could you offer to contribute an article or some essential tips that would be of interest to their readers?
2. Get social
Engage social media to build your reach but be careful not to overstretch yourself across too many networks. In can be tempting to be on every platform – Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest to name just a few – but as a time-poor start-up, a better approach is to just pick one or two (those that are most relevant for your business) and do them well.
Be authentic, consistent, interesting and helpful. Share information and knowledge but don’t boast. Make use of social media management tools like Hootsuite to help you run your networks efficiently, schedule tweets and messages and analyse traffic. For optimal results, your social media should be implemented as part of an overall marketing strategy.
3. Start a blog
The edge you have as a start-up is you! People want to know about you, your products or services, your story and compelling reasons as to why they should buy from you. See blogging as your opportunity to shine! A well-written, well-managed blog provides the perfect platform to create and maintain a relationship with your target audience and establish a two-way communication.
In addition to telling your story, a blog enables you to strengthen your position as an expert, build your credentials, show that you are current and always have your target audience top of mind. Supported with social media, you have the scope to reach a global audience, grow your networks and will likely discover some really interesting opportunities.
4. Avoid paid advertising
Be very wary of investing your precious marketing funds into paid advertising. As a start-up with low brand awareness, paid advertising can quickly swallow up a lean budget, generating little or no return. Consumers are bombarded with thousands of advertising messages on a daily basis. With the scale of advertising campaign that a start-up could typically afford, your message is unlikely to cut through the marketing clutter.
Time to get creative! How else could get yourself in there? Are there alternative, more cost-effective opportunities such as providing competition prizes, subscription packs or product for reviews? It’s always worth asking the question!
5. Promote your website
Your website is likely to be one of your biggest up-front investments. You need a website to let people know about your amazing products or services, right? You certainly do, but don’t forget that you also need to drive traffic to your shiny new site. Offer to blog for sites that your customers visit and ask key influencers to guest post for you too. Embrace social media (as above) to drive traffic to your site, include it on your email sign-off, wear it on your t-shirt/cap/bag and mention it to every person you meet!
This blog is also currently featured on Enterprise Nation.