It doesn’t matter how great your product or service is, without marketing it’s a non-starter. So, if you’ve got ambitious plans for your startup, clever marketing is how you’ll get your products trending and your name known by the people that matter.
And thanks to all the wonderful digital technologies we now have at our disposal, you no longer have to spend a fortune to get great results. Anyone with a creative streak, a bit of tech savvy and a healthy dose of persistence can give it a good go.
Having said that, there are certain strategies that are particularly well-suited to startups as they’re effective at building brand awareness and engagement, without hitting you too hard in the wallet. Here are our top five:
- Content marketing. Content marketing has exploded in recent years, thanks to the ease of publishing blogs, videos and other media on a brand’s own channels. The content marketing concept is pretty simple: produce content, publish it and promote it, and it is one of the best ways of reaching a wide audience and showcasing your expertise - particularly when you have a limited budget. Done well, content marketing can both boost engagement with current audiences and generate organic leads through search engine results (more on that in a moment). However, always remember that the crucial factor driving content performance is how useful your content is to your target audience. Just telling people how great your product is won’t cut the mustard: content marketing is for building your brand’s reputation by giving audiences something that they want. That could be information, entertainment, friendly advice, or a mixture of all three.
- PR and guest blogging. PR is similar to content marketing, but with more of a focus on publishing your content in the media and on other popular websites, to extend its reach. The other benefit of PR is that it will up your authority and credibility amongst your target audiences, thanks to the third party endorsement that you get from appearing on well-known sites. A bit of clever PR can see you quoted in articles and featured in the media, while some negotiation with site owners, bloggers, podcasters and the like can often nab you a guest slot. PR and guest blogging are also fantastic for generating backlinks from reputable sites, which are vital for boosting your search rankings.
- SEO. SEO is less a strategy in its own right and more of a tactic which you should weave into every aspect of your marketing. Google is king in modern marketing, and SEO is how you get on Google’s good side. The main SEO takeaway is that content which scores highly with Google’s algorithms will optimise your search engine results and shoot you to the top of search lists. And there are a number of ways you can make Google happy, most important of which is seeding the right keywords through your content (there are plenty of tools out there which can help you to do this). However, a word of caution: practices like ‘keyword stuffing’ (in which your keywords are crammed into content) won’t get you anywhere. Google’s algorithms are pretty good at picking up on lazy SEO tricks, and they don’t like it. Best SEO practice involves regularly producing high-quality content which is relevant for your brand.
- Viral marketing. One of the most effective ways to grow your user base quickly is to give your current users a great reason to tell their friends about it – creating a viral effect. A great example of this is Uber, which still to this day offers users a free ride if they recommend a friend. For it to work, make sharing part of the user journey and most importantly of all, make it easy for people. It should be automated, e.g. every customer receives an automated email with a personalized referral link to forward onto a friend. Or it can be built into your product, as is the case with Uber. Incentivised referrals can also be offered on social media, such as a discount to those who like and share a tweet or follow you on Facebook.
- Social media. Almost a third of the world’s entire population regularly uses social media, so if your business isn’t on it yet, what are you waiting for? Not only is it great for connecting directly with your audiences, it also helps you to express your personality and build a community of loyal followers. And if you’re struggling to get traction organically, you can up your reach through paid advertising and post promotion. You’ll be surprised at how much you can get (and for how little). Plus, social media targeting algorithms are getting better by the day, so it’s ideal for pinpointing the type of people you want to reach – it’s really worth having a play around with the backend marketing tools of Facebook, LinkedIn and the like. But remember, social media is only as good as the content you put on it. So, ensure you post regularly, relevantly, and as usefully as possible.
Marketing isn’t an exact science and in the early days, it will probably take a fair amount of trial and error before you figure out what works and what doesn’t for your brand. That’s okay – and totally normal. But keep at it, keep learning and adapting, and your reach, customer base and profits will be on the up in no time.