Startups face many challenges, especially in the first few years of inception – and one of the biggest of those is to stay in the black and maintain cash flow. According to The SBA, 30% of new businesses fail during the first two years and that number rises to 50% during the first five years.
That’s a pretty scary number, and one of the main reasons these businesses don’t succeed is because they don’t invest in marketing. But just how can you create great marketing campaigns when you only have a shoestring budget? Here’s some Marketing Strategy Ideas for you:
1. Creating a Blog for Your Startup
When you’ve had your business website designed and built, a blog page was probably included. But since your site has gone live, has anyone actually posted on it? You might have put up the odd bit of company news, but creating regular blog posts with a thought-out strategy behind them can be a cheap and effective way to boost traffic and generate leads.
As a small startup with limited resources, you might be thinking that you don’t have time to do this. Everyone on your team is probably already stretched pretty thin and their time could be better spent on other tasks. The reality is that content marketing has become one of the most popular methods of marketing for startups and for good reasons – it’s both cheap and effective.
If you don’t have time to be generating blog posts then check if your website design agency is full service, that way they might be able to help you generate a strategy or even do the copywriting for you. It can be hard for startups to pass on responsibility and trust someone else with the voice of their brand but if the agency you chose also built your website, they will have a good understanding of your product and audience.
2. Write a Guide or E-book
Going through the process of starting your own business, developing a product, getting funding and creating your startup, you will have accumulated a wealth of knowledge about your industry as well as other topics. Why not share some of that with your audience?
You likely have already done all of the research needed to create an ebook at some point during setting up your startup. All you have to do now is sit down for a few hours, write out what you know, and pass off the copy to a designer that can create a slick and professional ebook you can add as a downloadable resource to your website.
Ebooks are great for generating targeted leads. Your audience will happily hand over their contact information if they feel that they are getting something valuable in return. The people that fill out your lead gen form will have a genuine interest in your product or service, so if you’ve got a great sales team behind you, you should start converting them in no time.
3. Set up an Email Newsletters
We keep hearing that email marketing is dead but it’s just not true–Email marketing has been shown to generate a 4400% ROI (no that’s not a typo, it does say four thousand). If used effectively it can be a great budget marketing tool to help you scale your startup quickly.
You probably already have customers and website visitors so can create a list by adding a sign-up box to your website, which is both easy and quick to do so your developer won’t charge you much. For a greater chance of getting sign-ups, you can add an incentive–perhaps the ebook you’ve just written?
From there generating emails is really simple, there are loads of great free email marketing automation tools that can keep you within budget. With regards to design, you can get an HTML template created which only requires a one-off fee from your designer, which you can populate with your content.
4. Put a Referral Program in Place
Surprisingly one of the best budget marketing tips for startups is to stay away from marketing altogether; instead set up a referral programme and let your customers do the marketing for you.
As humans, we trust personal recommendations more than anything else. Hearing about a friend or family members experience can do a lot more to sway us into making a purchase than a flashy ad on our Instagram feed. Referral programmes don’t cost a lot to set up and they continue to generate revenue on their own over time, making them a perfect option for any startup on a budget.
You can simply offer current customers and new customers a discount or credit for each referral giving them the incentive to recommend your product or service to people they know. A startup that has had massive success with this is Airbnb, whose referrals drive an almost 900% year on year growth as a program.
5. Be Active on Social Media
Social media is freely available, literally anyone can set up an account, so why not set one up for your business?
Having a profile on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn can add legitimacy to your business but it’s not something you can just slap together. While it is a budget option because you can do it for free, it will take up some of your time to flesh out your profiles and create a social media presence that accurately reflects your brand.
Once your profile is set up you can then start syndicating content that will appeal to your audience and sharing your own original content if you have it.
Social media isn’t something you should do casually, creating regular updates, communicating and reaching out to other people are important parts of the process. This can be time-consuming, but with free tools like Buffer you can schedule up posts in advance and get a whole week worth of social updates done in one sitting, to help you stay organised.
6. Create a Press Release
People from all walks of life consult news publications daily, probably the vast majority of your audience do as well. If you have something newsworthy to report, tell people about it by reaching out to publications – whether that’s top tier news sites or sites specific to your industry.
If your press release really is newsworthy then chances are sites will be happy to publish it. This gets you attention in a major publication to build your brand awareness and can generate referral traffic to your site.
Top Tip: Add an inbound link into your press release for a bit of link juice to boost your sites SEO.
If you write the press release yourself and do your own hunt for journalists (Twitter is a great place to start), this marketing tactic can actually be completely free. If you don’t have the resources or time to do it yourself you can always pay an agency to give you a hand, while this is more expensive than doing it internally it is still is well within a startups budget.
7. Personal Branding
Creating a personal brand works in a similar way to creating a corporate brand, just on an individual level. You promote yourself as an individual on social media, through your blog and any other platforms you utilise.
You can share and promote your expertise to become a thought leader in your industry and generate a personal following. You can then use the influence you have created to suggest your product or service as a solution to problems that your audience is having. You will find that it is easier to generate this kind of influence and trust as an individual over your business, as it is difficult for people to trust corporations whereas it is easy for us to build relationships with other humans.
8. Collaborate With Other Brands
As a startup, you are not just marketing your business to your target audience but also to potential investors. One of the big challenges that startups face is finding the capital they need to produce, distribute and promote your products or service.
Collaborating with other brands not only allows you to get your business in front of their audience but can allow you to network with already established businesses. Sharing ideas and collaborating on projects with other companies can then be a great way to get financial support. It shows others have faith in your business and can give you a quick in into the desired market you are trying to target.
Starting a collaboration doesn’t require you to spend any of your marketing budget, it can be as simple as sending an email or a message on LinkedIn. While not everyone you want to collaborate with will have the ability, desire or time to do so, if you continue to target businesses that you can give a genuine and helpful offering to, you will find the perfect company to collaborate with in no time. We do this within BNI with Power Teams – businesses with natural synergy with each other.
SEO should never be ignored. Those searching for your offering on Google are often the hottest of prospects, that’s because they have already identified their pain or need and are already taking action to solve it.
If you are creating content for your site–which you should be–you might as well invest a little bit of time or money optimising your content for search engines. You can either take the time to research, learn and implement SEO on a continued basis or you can consult an agency such as our chapter member Springhill Marketing.
The idea of SEO might seem terribly complex if you are new to online marketing but in reality, it’s built on 3 elements:
Using an agency or by doing some research you may notice ways you could optimise your site with technical SEO but fingers crossed you pick a good website design agency and they put all the best practices in place from the beginning.
With that out of the way, optimising content and generating links comes next. Keyword research is key here and something all startups should invest their time in. Once you have your keywords sorted you won’t likely have to change them again for a while so this is often a one-off cost and the research can be used to influence all future online marketing campaigns.
Generating links is your next step, and that can be achieved in a number of ways:
Organic links that come from sites citing great content you have created
Links you’ve acquired through outreaching to websites and pitching them content for their site that will have a link back to your site in it.
Profile links from websites that give you the option to add a link when setting up your profile.
If you find that you have a small budget for your startups’ marketing, don’t start cutting corners and creating damaging campaigns. Instead, it’s time to get creative and look at the budget options you have available such as those mentioned above. They can take time and effort to implement but when done effectively they can generate a tonne of leads for your business.
Business networking is a key element to growing your company. One of the main reasons business owners start networking is to get new contacts and referrals which you can follow up with and hopefully convert into customers.
You probably hear a lot that making a good first impression is vital at networking events. You need to be confident and genuine to try to establish personal relationships with people in a short amount of time, which can be a difficult task to master.
Once you’ve got over this first hurdle of making a good personal impression, the work doesn’t suddenly get any easier. You put in the time and effort to generate a new business contact, but what happens after the networking event?
Most likely you will have exchanged business cards and if that new contact has a genuine interest in your product or service they will go on to research you online.
This will cover a number of things from your business social media, your personal LinkedIn and most importantly your website. If all of these elements aren’t up to scratch, you could be losing precious leads before you’ve even had a chance to try and convert them.
What makes a website give a good first impression?
The saying might go ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ but this gets ignored when it comes to websites. The first thing that anyone takes notice of when they visit a website is the design; it takes about 50 milliseconds for users to make that judgement about your website which will determine whether they stay or leave.
That’s not a lot of time to make an impression and design can be subjective but it’s safe to say there are some things in your design that you can do to help ensure that your new contact will want to stay on your site.
Having a modern design
Old HTML websites are an immediate put-off for most customers, they make your business seem out of date and out of touch. They can also give the impression that you’re not willing to invest in updating your site and that you don’t take pride in your business.
Think of it in the same way you would going to a networking event – would you turn up in an old tattered suit? No, so why would you want to direct your new contact to an old tattered site?
Having modern sleek design shows that you are up to date in the digital world and able to keep on top of ever-changing tech and how it is affecting all sectors of business. Most people are also visual learners, wanting aesthetic design cues to help them absorb information; if you don’t have a great design then no one is going to take the time to read any of the content on your site because it will feel like too much work.
Once you’ve got past your 50 milliseconds, you have to keep your new contact engaged so they don’t get bored and leave. Colours, images, graphics and visuals can all help you do this. Choosing relevant colours to your business can help your new contact know they are in the right place and help convey a message you can’t with words alone.
You wouldn’t necessarily want bright bold colours if you’re in a serious industry like finance or law and you wouldn’t want too serious tones if you’re trying to sell kids toys – visuals can make or break a site and either enhance or diminish the message you are trying to convey.
Images and graphics are also a great way to engage your visitor. A picture can tell a thousand words but you need to make sure that those are the right words, using cheesy stock photography or generic graphics can make your site look spammy and your business unestablished.
Visuals are important but once your new visitor has decided they like the visuals enough to stay, now you have to win them over with information.
Your site isn’t just there to look good, it needs to provide answers to questions potential customers might have. Every single line of copy on your site should help your visitor learn something relevant to your business.
Talk to your customers in a way they will understand and in the language they use. Don’t overcomplicate things and use technical jargon, instead simplify your copy and make it easy to understand, using the language you would use if you were having a conversation with them.
Use data, statistics and quotes to help emphasise your point and add proof to your claims. Your website is like your salesman, it needs to convince new visitors that they should do business with you and using stats and quotes from external sources will help you to build trust and establish social proof with your new contact who doesn’t know much about your business.
Exceptional user experience
If your website is confusing, your visitors will leave. While you want to stand out from your competitors, going too far outside of the box and overcomplicating things will annoy your visitors as it will take up to much of their time to figure out where to go to get the information they need.
Your site needs to be well structured, using a clear navigation and pages with clear titles and subheadings so that information is easy to find at a glance. You should include obvious and direct call to actions to help push your new visitor along their buyer journey and give them a clear next step. This will prevent them from getting confused or frustrated trying to find the information they are after, and give you a better chance of converting them.
Page load times are another vital element of user experience. With information available to us at the touch of a button, there is a growing culture of impatience. Your new visitor is probably busy, they probably have their own business to run and don’t have time to waste waiting for your website to load. If you have met your new visitor at a networking event, do you really want to direct them to a site where they have to sit and stare at a loading screen rather than a site that loads instantaneously?
There’s a good chance that after handing your business card to a new contact at your networking event they might just look up your business there and then on their phone.
People use their mobile devices everywhere these days and more and more internet traffic is coming from them over a desktop. They are fast and easy to use and audiences from every industry want these quick connections. If your site isn’t optimised for mobile then your new contact will feel like you can’t deliver a quick and easy service. Once they’ve seen a bad mobile site there’s very little chance they are going to make the effort to look up your business on a desktop.
A mobile friendly site will also help you build your credibility with your new contact. Giving them a proper and seamless experience will help persuade them that you are a credible and knowledgeable source of information about your industry.
These days it’s now just considered best practice to have a mobile-friendly site. There aren’t really developers around anymore that will build you a site that isn’t responsive, working on a desktop, mobile and tablet. Not having a mobile-friendly site shows your site is outdated but can also put you behind your competitors. If there is someone else at your networking event that provides a similar service and has a mobile friendly site you are setting off from the start line at a disadvantage and will have less chance of converting that new lead.
Mobile friendly design also improves SEO. According to Google over 50% of their searches come from mobile and if you don’t have a mobile friendly site you will be penalised in the rankings as Google does not want to send its mobile searchers to a site that will not provide a good user experience.
Great SEO is hugely beneficial for business, especially at networking events. Imagine you’re at a networking event but you’ve ran out of business cards, or you’ve handed one out but the person has lost it by the time they get back to their office. How is that new contact supposed to get in touch with you? Chances are the first thing they will do is Google ‘your business + location.’
They might remember your business name, in which case you should have a decent chance of appearing in the search results but they might have forgotten it too. In that case, they will probably search for your the type of business you have (ie. carpenter, web developer, estate agent etc) and your location in the hopes to find a site with a name that rings a bell. If you don’t have good SEO then that contact is never going to be able to find you in the results pages.
Good SEO can also help if your new contact is looking into other options in your area, if they search for your key term ‘ie. carpenter Northampton’ and your business shows up top, it can reassure them that you are a credible company worth doing business with and be a deciding factor in converting them.
Why LinkedIn and other social media are important for networking
We are living in the digital age but a lot of business owners are still kicking and screaming as they are dragged into it. Not embracing new technologies and networking options gives you a clear disadvantage when trying to generate and convert leads.
LinkedIn is the social network for business owners; its strictly for professionals, no funny memes or cat videos in sight, and it’s become an imperative part of todays networking world.
All professionals should be on LinkedIn and its a great option for people to find and connect with you after a networking event, especially if they aren’t wanting to buy your product or service now but might at some later date. LinkedIn helps ease the networking processes by reinforcing the new connection beyond just an exchange of business cards and a handshake.
Through LinkedIn you can stay at the forefront of your new connections mind, you will appear on their feed and can even share helpful content that might help push them through your sales funnel. By having a LinkedIn connection with them you ensure that you are not forgotten and don’t end up just another business card thrown in a desk draw.
It can also add credibility when meeting a new contact. Your profile will show your work history and can reassure a possible lead that you have the skills and experience that you say you do. You might also find that you have mutual connections which can build trust and act as social proof.
While LinkedIn is great for building your personal brand and for networking, having an active social media presence can help establish your company brand and provide social proof for new leads.
When making any large purchasing decisions, people and businesses want to know that they are choosing the right decision is trusting your product or service and that it is going to work for their own personal or business situation.
Nobody wants to do business with a faceless corporation and establishing Instagram, Twitter and Facebook profiles can help you show your audience and new leads your brand’s personality. You can also use it as a place to interact and engage with your customers, providing great customer service and showing that you respond to customer feedback and genuinely care about your audience.
An online presence is vital for any business no matter the industry your in. By having a well thought out presence through great website design and engaging social media profiles you can use your presence to help convert your new leads you meet through networking events, ensuring you stay at the forefront of your new contacts mind.