As a startup, you can’t afford to miss out on any leads that come your way. In fact, the ability and efficiency to convert leads is the ultimate barometer of success for any startup. Though brands are expected to keep aside a major chunk of their expenditure for marketing strategy and leeway, the harsh reality for many startups is that a well-funded marketing campaign and a team is a pipedream. This is where zero-budget marketing makes all the difference.
A lack of money should not drive a startup towards a deep dark abyss where no one can find you, right? Lo and behold, the internet phenomenon of digital marketing, a godsend for many bootstrapped organisations who are plagued by funding constraints. We discuss some digital marketing hacks that early-stage startups can keep in mind while formulating their marketing strategy.
Content is your king
In the words of marketing guru and author Seth Godin, “Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.” The content you put out is a huge part of your marketing strategy. It is the bridge that allows you an audience with potential customers and clients. So it is always advisable to focus on content that is specific to your industry. Producing organic content will always get your marketing plans the wings it requires to soar, so be innovative, creative, and most of all, authentic. Content marketing comes in many forms – blogs, whitepapers, podcasts, infographics, and most importantly, videos. It is mostly a one-size-fits-all proposition, so explore different mediums and channels. You never know where your next traffic mine lies.
Leverage the potential of social media
A free-for-all and democratized platform, social media provides a level playing field for both a Fortune 500 company and a yet-to-be-funded startup. Yes, you might not have the budget for spending on ads, but that shouldn’t stop you from being creative. Social media allows brands their moment in the spotlight, given that they have the creative flair and quirky articles or videos to back it up. You can become an overnight sensation with a single video or an article.
Take the Dollar Shave Club for example, who went all-guns-blazing against industry giants and absolutely slew them. With an average 33 million views on YouTube, the blade manufacturer’s witty and quirky take on cheaper grooming products captured the attention of netizens the world over. The subsequent online traffic resulted in millions of product requests and even a billion dollar acquisition. The best thing? Their breakthrough video cost a paltry $4,500. How’s that for food for your creative thoughts?
It’s all about the community outreach, even online
For a world that is hooked to its smartphone and social media feeds, offering access to like-minded digital communities goes a long way to building an audience. When you offer your subscribers interactive content and a sense of belonging, they are bound to come back for more, and this builds a community. However, please avoid blunt promotional outreach, as your users are smarter than you think. The community you build can turn against you at the very scent of in-your-face marketing schemes. The mantra when it comes to creating a community is offering content and allowing discourse to shape up – the marketing will happen on its own once your community presence grows.
Build an email list
For all you detractors of the age-old email list, it still remains the most effective outreach tools in the marketing sphere. It even outdoes every other medium when it comes to conversion rates. To build an email list, you need to create a lot of content for free and make consumer interested enough to give away their email ID in exchange for an eBook, a list of tools your audience would love to have, or a discount. There are a lot of free list-building tools and resources available on the internet that you can use to learn the ropes.
Keep your rivals close, and media friends closer
Media coverage has for ages proved to be one of the most effective ways of garnering mass appeal. It can literally ensure overnight traffic for nascent startups. If budgetary constraints limit your access to PR agencies, you can try connecting with journalists on LinkedIn and even Facebook. But be wary of how you approach scribes – a whiff of any vested interest would definitely ward them off. Rather than trying to push your product or PR agenda, try to build a relationship over time before you approach them for a coverage request. Networking with journalists and media entities will also keep you abreast of industry revelations as they happen.
You need to hustle your way in
The art of the hustle is beautiful and tactful. If mastered properly, it can help you ease through any doorway – be it of investors, potential clients, or consumers. So as an aspiring entrepreneur looking to make it big, hustle is the way about town. It could start by networking at events, connecting with an influencer, guest posts on different mediums, etc. For example, reaching out to influencers to test your product can lead to recommendations. Sometimes all it takes is a tweet to get your product from the conveyor belt to a storefront display. Directly interacting with customers for feedback – or even reviews – sends a clearer picture of your intent.
The startup route was never easy and will never be for the easy-going, laid-back ones. These digital marketing quirks will ease some of your concerns. But the major requirement of the startup game is to be on your toes and improve upon every avenue and chance that drops your way. It is all about selling not just your product or service, but your dream. Sooner than later you will see it come into shape.
Be better together: collaborate, collaborate, collaborate
Introducing collaboration as a marketing strategy can help instantly grow your customer base without spending a ton of money, a perfect plan for cash-strapped startups. Engage with Instagrammers, cross promote with peer startups. Network at startup mixers and events. Hustle your story at every possible opportunity. When you don’t have a ton of cash in your marketing coffers, collaboration allows you to yoke yourself to businesses that have more marketing power. Inviting a larger firm to post on your industry blog (or vice versa), for example, garners good press and means you’ll benefit from two audience sets.
You might be the best in the biz, but you’re probably not the best in every biz. Collaborating with another company allows you to learn from top execs’ expertise and experience to highlight new trends, identify areas of growth and show your customers all that you have to offer.
All the concept takes is a common purpose. When companies come together with a common audience, or goal, or a common mission or interest, they can band together in any number of ways to create an influence and a presence that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Self-publish your story
Several media sites have self-publishing tools, where you could write your own story or create a startup/author profile. and get it published at no cost. YourStory is one such platform. You may publish your own story here.
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This article is part of the Dell Startup Academy series. Read more such articles here.
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