Running a startup is one of the most amazing, exciting, diverse and satisfying experience one could have in a short span of time. It keeps you on your toes and helps you learn something new every day. One of the key challenges with any organization (unless you are some government funded defence project) is limited resources and to decide on a key question : how to best utilize these limited resources?In case of startups it is certainly much more difficult a challenge to say the least for obvious reasons, more so when decision making is to be done between weather to allocate funds to next big feature you want to release or build your brand in the market. The investment needed in traditional marketing instruments (TV, radio, newspapers, hoarding etc) can be overwhelming for small companies like ours. Unless funded, normally startup have to shy away from such big investments on marketing. This creates a chicken and egg situation, how to get more customers without branding, and how to get funds for branding unless you have enough customers.
Just like all of you, we have faced this questions many times, and we still face the dilemma every other day. We have applied some strategies (explained below), which has worked quite well for us so far.
- Use the social media. In this age of internet; Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Linkedin are really superb tools. Almost 70 to 80% of our target audience is connected to one of these mediums and number of likes / followers, subscribers helps you build a lot of credibility, among your targeted community.
- Start a Blog. And make a point to keep it updating it with happenings in your company, your domain and about your progress. If you are genuine, you will soon find genuine followers. If possible also ensure a periodic update (possibly a newsletter or mailer) about happenings in your eco system goes to all your prospects.
- There are so many startup circles / facilitator / incubator / weekend events and these are great source of mentorship, ideas and networking. Stay active, participate and you will soon find your network is worth million bucks of marketing spend.
- One of the traditional (atleast by standard of technology) yet quite affordable medium is Search Engine Marketing. Given almost everybody uses search engines to find what they are looking for, the leads thus generated are generally of good quality. We have found Google ad words very effective for our business. It is affordable, easy to learn and master and you can control it yourself without help of so called “professional experts”. You can also try Linkedin premium, Yahoo! and other such options.
- No publicity is better than your clients speaking for you. This comes with a rider though; you have to be really delivering on your promise. If you can make them your referrer, job is 70% done. One little point to remember here, you need to keep hinting/reminding your happy clients to provide you with referrals, quotes and other such helps, they generally don’t remember these on their own.
- If your business is something like ours where long and deep negotiations are unavoidable. You may want to try and check if your prospects will consider mentioning you in their more expensive media (traditional so to say) campaigns. This will create a win-win for both the parties.
- Build relationship with media, reporters, bloggers, writers, news website, print media. They need you as much as you need them. So long as your story is not made up and they see a merit in it, they will help you spread a word about you.
Every business is different and so are the needs and means to build your brand. Try one or more of these to see if it fits your startup, or you can devise your own strategies.
A word of caution –my entire narration is based on experience I had working and owning the marketing strategy for www.homebuy360.com, so you know what I mean !!
- Startup marketing
- Search Engine Marketing
- Linkedin premium
- google adwords