As exciting as it may sound to run your own business and being your own boss, building and running a startup to success is no cake walk. In fact, nothing would go as you had planned. It is necessary to be nimble on your feet and change as the market demands.That is your road to success.
“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”– Peter Drucker
Marketing a start-up business is very different to marketing an established setup. Traditional marketing will not work unless you spend a substantial amount of dollars just to be seen and heard. Therefore, it is all the more challenging to get customers to buy into your concept and build traction. You need to be disciplined and must follow a clear cut strategy and see every effort through.
‘Build it and they will come’ does not work in this day and age and fortunate start ups have sweated it out for months and even years to achieve that so-called ‘overnight success’. Here is a list of things you need to focus on to make things work for your business.
Seamless experience Focus on your product. Ensure that it solves a real problem. Let the access to your product, be it through your website or app be so easy that your customer doesn’t even realise the no of steps he had to take to get there. Yes, we are referring to the user experience. Reduce page loading time, avoid heavy visuals, provide a chatbox for them to ask your questions and what the heck, just pop up and say you are around if they need you! When a customer is at your site, it gives them a sense of reassurance that your company can be trusted.Identify the market and keywords – Make your website SEO friendly. There are plenty of tutorials out there for DIY SEO. But if you are a start-up, your focus must be on how to get business. Yes, it is important to know the basics of SEO and once you have that knowledge, outsource it to a startup friendly digital agency. All you need to do is identify the market you would like to sell your service to, and the list of keywords you want to rank. You can use the google keyword tool for that. (again, the agency will help generate this for you if you are unsure of where to start). Keep a close tab on your websites progress, check monthly reports and audit keywords that are not performing. SEO takes time to work but organic ranking is the best way to grow any website. Check out this on-page SEO guide and how to help your website rank better in search –
Leverage on other businesses – There is nothing more powerful that cross-promoting your business with a complementing player in your space. You will be able to tap into customer database of other businesses and therefore provide a lot of exposure to your brand. If you promote a travel agency, partner with an outdoor hiking company and provide discount coupons. If you run a playschool, partner with a kids clothing store and cross promote.The idea is to offer something valuable for one another and thereby boosting visibility and sales
Own Social Media – Literally everyone is on social media and it is a known fact that, whoever your target audience is, he/she will have a social media account in any one of the platforms. Based on your business, choose a platform that will work for you. Put up interesting posts, answer questions, share product information and more. If you would like to use multiple platforms at the same time, I must tell you that it would take a considerable amount of time. If you are not able to dedicate time and effort to curate interesting communication, run advertisements etc, think about outsourcing it to a digital agency. With years of experience, they will be able to tell you what works and what won’t and executive it for you.
Create compelling content – Content was, is and will be the king! When you write content that appeals to your audience, you are essentially doing two things. 1. Establishing yourself as a thought leader and 2. Providing value and therefore building trust. Start a blog page and post at least three articles a week. This would help you in both social media and SEO efforts. Google will see that you have interesting information to share and will push you up in the search ranking. What does that mean? Your website will show up in search for users to click. 🙂
The Power of Email – Most companies are begging for a 1% click through rate and if they manage to get that, they are happy. It is important to email your customers regularly so that you are on top of their mind. Not just random emails but the ones that will provide value to them. Running a sale? Mail. New collection in your store? Mail. Your team got bigger? Mail. You don’t have to hard sell all the time. If you are a destination management company, you could create a series such as ‘’Inspiration Monday’s’’ and send one stunning photograph of the city you are promoting. The idea is to send enough emails but not too much that would be considered as spamming.
Tap into your network – The first few hundred people who visit your website will be your friends and family. But that buzz will not stay long. Reach out to networking groups and write about your business. Tap into your Linkedin contacts. It is a powerful medium. Ask your friends to refer. Run a referral program if necessary. Dropbox cracked their referral program so much that marketing gurus and lecturers are talking about it in their classes even now. If you can provide a good offering for your referral and referrer, you will be able to reach new audiences using your existing network.
Be in the news – PR is another great way to create visibility for your business. Reach out to editors on twitter and connect with them. Don’t send them requests to feature you immediately. The idea here is to build the relationship first. There are plenty of PR sites you can write to where they would cover your story for free. Most of them have a paid feature with added benefits. You could consider spending a small amount on PR. Do remember that inbound marketing is less expensive than outbound marketing and PR is a great way to bring customers to you.
Have a strict budget – As a startup, you may not be sure if you should put all your eggs in one basket or spread it thin. The best way to spend money on advertising would be to pick two or three channels and try it out. Set a fixed budget and see the ROI you get in each of these platforms. Rinse and repeat till you narrow down on channels that actually work for you. By spending money on more platforms, you are cutting your runway short and that’s the last thing that should happen to your business.
Startup marketing isn’t easy. You have to work against the odds with limited resources, budget, and a small team. When you have a clear strategy, a focus market, a defined target audience, you pick up few channels and test it out. If you are looking for a success story to replicate, it may not work. The only way is to keep doing what you do, be close enough to see metrics and far enough to redefine strategies if necessary. If you need help in marketing your startup, feel free to get in touch with me.