So you probably have a fantastic idea for a new product or a practical solution for a problem that everybody has. You decided to quit your day job in order to focus on your start-up. The only problem with this scenario is that most startup founders and small business owners are not marketers by nature. Sure, they know the ins and outs of the product or service they are offering, but have no idea how to market it. This can be disheartening because no matter how great or remarkable that product or service is, it will be a flop if your target audience does not know of its existence.
The success of your startup will often depend on your approach to marketing. Most startups don’t have a marketing team, unlike an established business where the marketing is done in-house or outsourced to a specialist. Everything is bootstrapped and done by you or a partner. Since you have a shoestring budget for your marketing, how can you possibly compete with the big players in your industry?
First, create a marketing plan.
Much like a business plan, a marketing plan will help you know where to focus your energies and decide how to spend your limited resources. While a marketing plan won’t guarantee your business success, it will serve as a reference point that details how, when, and why you’ll carry out various marketing activities. A marketing plan helps you better understand your business, industry, and audience.
In the marketing plan you are creating, review the goals you have set for yourself and look at the product or services you offer. Those two should match. Determine your unique selling proposition (USP) and identify your target audience. Knowing what your USP is and who your audience is will allow you to wisely allocate and distribute whatever limited marketing resources your startup has.
Second, create an online presence.
Building a website and a blog are the first steps towards having a strong online presence. Leverage these two platforms by publishing great content on a regular basis. Write about the things that matter to your target audience, and offer practical solutions that will help solve their problems. Make sure that your website copy and blog posts contain keywords that are frequently used within your industry, as these are going to help your blog rank higher than the competitors posting similar content.
Another great way to boost your online presence is through social media. People view Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as social media sites, and not as marketing tools. Whenever they interact with a business page using these sites, they feel like they are doing business with real people instead of a faceless brand. As a result, they become more receptive to your marketing message. Leverage these social platforms by posting content that will be relevant and useful to them. Engage with them with them on a regular basis. By doing so, you will earn their trust and loyalty to your brand.
Third, create an email list.
Even if your target audience does not visit your website or engage with you through your social media pages, there’s still one way to reach them – through their inbox.
And even if you don’t yet have an email list yet, don’t fret. The tools are already there in your website – just use a landing page or an opt-in form to allow people to sign up for updates from your website.
Fourth, don’t discount the importance of offline marketing.
You don’t have to limit your marketing to online activities; what you do offline matters as well. You can distribute direct mail to your potential and existing customers. You can collect email addresses at trade shows for your email list. You can give away free stuff that are useful such as retractable banner pens at conferences and other networking events.
Lastly, evaluate and adjust.
Even after you have implemented content marketing, social media, email marketing, and other offline marketing activities, the work is never done. It’s up to you to evaluate each marketing activity to see if you are meeting the goals you have set forth in the marketing plan.
Your marketing plan is not something that you write and then set aside. You will need to frequently update and make some adjustments if something is not working.