If you’ve started your own venture, or work in a startup company, you know that nothing’s more critical than getting it off the ground, and grabbing attention. Unfortunately, the high cost of marketing usually translates to many startups going belly-up before they get a chance to sail to the horizon. Do you have what it takes to market efficiently, on a tight budget?
What’s The Challenge?
Straight out of college, I started an e-commerce company, which then evolved to provide enterprise-level tech solutions like chatbots. As you know, when your company is bootstrapped, it’s the best (and worst) news for Marketing.
Because Marketing on a budget (and sometimes, with NO budget), is hard. The blessing in disguise is, it makes you really get to the USP, the crux of what you’re selling, and on the other hand, into the minds of your customers. That’s the only way a marketing and social media campaign can succeed without a cushy budget to fall back on – it has to actually work.
That, and you have to hustle. Oh, yes!
Forget about mimicking the marketing campaigns and strategies of large corporations and your funded competitors in the market. They have thousands, probably millions of dollars to back them up from their investors, whereas you don’t. You will fail.
Which is why, you need to hustle your way to the top. Think of it as a fun challenge, though, that really gets your creative juices flowing! You don’t have to compete with everyone in your niche. That’s futile. Rather, focus on your brand, your voice, and your target audience, and think of all the ways you can grab their attention in a unique, memorable way. If you’ve done enough research on your target audience (Empathy maps, the whole spiel), you should be able to do this.
Three Hacks For Startups Marketing On a Budget
Get creative, and leave no stone unturned!
1. Create a buzz
Ideally, the quality of your products and services should already be creating a buzz through word-of-mouth and organic marketing. It doesn’t hurt to give it a little push, though.
To create some much-needed momentum, the best way is to create a buzz. Where there’s a buzz, there’s curiosity. And nothing leads to virality than curiosity, coupled with excitement.
- One of the easiest ways to do this (especially with e-commerce, lifestyle and fashion brands) is to host ‘contests’ on social media, with exciting prizes (which should ideally be – products from your own company, simultaneously driving sales up).
- Another way to grab attention is to find potential customers, regular people from your TG, that could influence others in their circle, to buy from you. Think about it as a kind of ‘brand ambassador’ activity (although established bloggers and influencers will definitely charge you quite a bit).
- Which is why, you should try and find budding enthusiasts in your TG, people with a decent social media presence, writing skills, and sphere of influence, to propel your brand forward. The trade-off? They’d be happy to leverage their network for a shout-out on your social handles, website, or with a gift bag!
2. Leverage Your Network
Your network is probably your most powerful tool, and a gold mine for lead generation, waiting to be utilized. There’s a reason the saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know”.
You never know who, in your network, is connected to that investor you’ve desperately wanted to get in touch with, or the PR agency you want to take notice of you, or even who could be your biggest client, lying dormant, and in wait.
One thing that most entrepreneurs are afraid to do, initially, is to leverage their personal connections. It’s understandable that you don’t want to come of as too spammy, or pushy. Which is why you need to create a very different strategy, targeted at both, your personal, and your professional network.
Don’t leave anything unplanned. Make a differential (but complementary) strategy for:
- Social Media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Quora, Reddit, Pinterest, etc)
- Whatsapp, iMessage, Telegram, Facebook Messenger (whichever is the messaging app of choice in your region)
- Your website
- Guest bloggers and influencers
- Paid channels (SEM, SEO, Google / Facebook / Instagram ads)
- Email campaign
- BTL Marketing
The idea is to have everything ready so you can roll it out with one, huge mammoth push. The more buzz being generated at the same time, the more likely it is for virality to spread and for word to get out.
Once PR and publications start to take notice and cover you, the ball will keep rolling from there.
Milk Social Media!
Which doesn’t mean spend your entire budget on ads. No, no, no.
In fact, social media is the one weapon you can use to level the playing field with your competitors, however large they may be. You see, social media is a fickle thing, because customers and people are fickle beings.
Everyone’s so used to seeing the same old ads, the same old promotions and paid blogger testimonials and content marketing. You need to shake things up.
- Of course you should focus on paid channels, but even there, do some a/b testing with different creatives and content to see what can give you the lowest CTR.
- Besides that, focus on organic marketing. Building on the above point of leveraging your network, request them to share their own experience and testimonials of your services on their Insta stories, Facebook walls, etc. You want a snow-ball effect to catch on.
- Be active. Know where your audience is at, what’s trending, what their likes and dislikes are. Comment on their posts with relevant content, and you don’t always have to push your brand forward. Whenever possible or relevant though, paste a Bitly link to one of your pages.
Ready to go to Market?
All I can tell you is, be prepared. Do tons of research. Keep track of what your competitors are doing. Be even more mindful of your customers and potential customers.
Startup marketing is a great big marathon, not a 100 meter dash! How you get out of the gate is super important, but after that, evolve, evolve, evolve.
Read more about my own personal startup experience, marketing on a budget.
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