It all started with a great idea. Now, you have a shiny new product – or service – with a carefully designed website and you are ready to shout it to the world and get your customers rolling in. Not so fast! While you may think full-speed-ahead is the way to go, the key to marketing success with a startup, and a limited budget, is all in the execution. You have to figure out a way to make $1+$1=3 customers, right? While being first to market is important, taking some time to do things thoughtfully and carefully will help you get that extra bang for your limited bucks. Plan effectively and implement efficiently with the following tips.
1. Develop a plan. A former manager early in my career at a technology startup used to say, “Throw it on the wall and see if it sticks” when referring to marketing and advertising strategies. A lot of start-ups believe this mantra too and that is not a model that new businesses can rely on long term.
Unfortunately, this tactic is a huge waste of your time, energy, and money, and … it doesn’t work. With limited start-up resources, you can’t afford to act haphazardly and market yourself to anyone and everyone who may or may not be interested in what you have to offer. Develop a streamlined marketing plan designed to reach your target audience. Keep it systematic and consistent.
2. Stick with what you know. Don’t try to “go viral” with content, videos, Infographics, etc. that aren’t related to what you do. Sure, you’ll generate traffic for your site, but those visitors are not likely to stick around and buy your product or utilize your service. Define what you do, what makes you different, and why people should care. These value propositions should be woven into all of your marketing efforts.
3. Tap your network. Social media is important, and we’ll get to that next, but it does not replace good, old-fashioned face-to-face networking. There are many great networking groups in the Baltimore-Washington area including the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber and the Business Women’s Network of Howard County. Attend local chamber and industry events, set up lunch meetings with former colleagues to share your new venture, and don’t hesitate to ask friends for referrals to people that may be interested in your company. Always be honest and genuine.
4. Be social. Set up your social media accounts now and make sure that your website and all marketing initiatives include links to your pages. Facebook and Twitter are the most obvious, but don’t forget about Google+, Pinterest, CrunchBase, YouTube, and sites that may be geared to your market.
For example, if you have a mom-focused product, you want to be involved in a site like CaféMom.com. Remember that social media is a conversation so engage and interact.
Monitor all the social media buzz about your start-up with a social media dashboard. There are several easy and free ways to see what is being said about you, including TweetDeck, Hootsuite, Threadsy, and more.
5. Engage with bloggers. Blogger outreach can be extremely beneficial and effective. Seek out the most influential bloggers in your genre and pitch them relevant and useful content.
6. Start your own blog. The benefits of having a blog for your business are fairly well-know and numerous. Content marketing is more than just SEO. Providing fresh and relevant content on your site establishes you and your business as an expert and a leader. People will keep coming back. According to a study by HubSpot, a leading inbound marketing software company, businesses that actively blog get 55 percent more website traffic!
7. Go public … with PR. Public Relations is a big part of starting up, but unlike advertising or sales, it’s best to think beyond revenue generation. PR is about building and maintaining your company’s brand. It includes developing and nurturing community and media relationships. Newsworthy releases are great for brand awareness, and with the help of newswire services they can even provide some SEO benefits, but be sure to incorporate these tools into an overall public relations strategy that will help generate meaningful and credible media coverage for the duration of your business life cycle.
We hope you find these tips helpful in marketing your new startup. If you have other suggestions or ideas to add to the list, please let us know.
This article also appears in The Business Monthly: March 2012 issue.