So you’ve started a business! You’ve done all your homework, validated the market, built a team, sussed out your business model and developed the product/service. Now you’re ready to launch and the biggest question is; “how do I get the word out?”
Chances are you don’t have much money for marketing. So what are some of the things you can do to promote your product or service without a big budget?
In a previous blog post I wrote about my six rules of doing marketing with tiny budgets. Now it’s time to take it a step further and share some practical tips and ideas. I’m not reinventing the wheel here. Many (probably more qualified) people have written about this before and there are massive amounts of information available online. So I will focus on three very basic areas that should be accessible for most start-ups and can help get you started.
The first thing you need to understand about the media is that you can’t control them (unless you pay them). They will write whatever they think is most relevant for their audience, and while you might think the launch of your product is highly relevant and super exciting news, it might not be in their eyes. In most cases, simply sending out a press release to announce your product launch will not get you any coverage. Here are a few tips to increase your chances of your story being picked up by journalists.
- Find out who writes about your industry/sector. Make a list of relevant publications and journalists. Check the websites and LinkedIn for contact details of the right people. Flip through previous editions to find out who has been writing about your industry/sector. Approach them directly and personally.
- Prioritise. Most publications want fresh stories. Once it’s been covered by one, the others probably won’t pick it up. Rate publications based on their reach in your target market, the fit between your message and theirs and the likelihood of them covering your story. Then reach out to the most relevant first. If they are not interested in picking up your story move on to number two on your list and so on.
- Build relationships. Find out who the relevant journalists in your field are and start building a relationship. For example, start a conversation at the next industry event or maybe connect with them on Twitter (everyone loves a tweet about the latest awesome story they wrote). Depending on your background and expertise you could try to position yourself as a thought-leader on a topic that they can turn to when they are looking for someone to comment on a story. Keep in mind that building relationships doesn’t happen overnight and talking to someone at an event once does not mean they will remember you.
Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest and the list goes on)
Social Media Networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are probably one of the best things that ever happened for start-ups. They enable you to reach millions of people all around the world without ever leaving your kitchen table. But, there is a danger in underestimating the time and effort (and money) required to really make them work. Here are some tips that can help you get started.
- Do your homework. A lot has been written about social media in the past few years and there are numerous articles available online with tips on how to make it work for your business. Spend some time reading up on the topic and figure out what could work for your business.
- Focus. Setting up an account with every available social media site is NOT Social Media Marketing! Making social media work for you takes quite a bit of effort and time. So pick one or two to start with and do it right. Think about who your target audience is and where you are most likely to reach them. Once you pick, post regular and relevant content. How do you pick one or two? In most cases Facebook would probably be your first choice simply due to its reach and popularity and how easy it is to expand your reach through advertising and promoted posts. After that it gets a bit more complicated. But this short summary (based on my experience) might help.
- LinkedIn. Should be your second (if not your first) priority if you are in the B2B space or targeting professionals. The numerous groups on LinkedIn make it easy to share content with relevant people and the advertising functionalities allow you to target people in specific organisations and professions.
- Twitter. More consumer focused and highly relevant if your goal is to engage with people or if you know your specific target audience is highly active on Twitter (or maybe particularly likely to follow certain people/companies on Twitter in which case you could try to engage with those).
- Pinterest. Highly visual. So this might be your top priority if you’re in an industry where ‘looks’ matter such as fashion, interior design, food, etc.
- Google +. The pinpoint targeting capabilities are considered one of the strength of Google +. So if you want to target different followers based on their interests, Google + might be your top priority.
- Think about what you want to achieve. Do you want to drive traffic to your website? Grow your fan base? Have smaller but highly relevant fan bases? And then develop your strategy accordingly.
- Grow your fan base. For most start-ups the first social media goal is building a fan-base. Make sure you link to your social media account from your website, in your email signature, on your business cards, etc. Make it easy for people to find your accounts. Run some Facebook ads and post content that your followers are likely to share and/or engage with (so you get exposure to their friends). Or think about teaming up with another company that has a similar target audience and do cross-promotions.
- Engage your fans. As your fan base grows, so does your opportunity to leverage them and turn them into customers. Post relevant content to keep them engage. Don’t just promote your products, post about things that are related to what you do.
Leverage your existing customers
This is an area that is often overlooked by start-ups in the early days when the focus is on getting media coverage, growing social media impact and other direct marketing campaigns. However, there’s no better marketing than word of mouth. So you should start thinking about this early on. Here are some ideas on how you can turn your customers into your advocates.
- Give your customers an outstanding experience. Especially when things go wrong. This should be common sense and is well understood by most companies. However, for start-ups, this is often easier said than done. Mistakes happen, especially in the early days. There might be bugs in your software, problems with shipments, quality of the product, unexpected delays with suppliers … The list of things that can go wrong is long and chances are, something will go wrong at some point. From my experience, the best way to deal with it is to be open and upfront. If mistakes happen, pick up the phone, apologise and explain what happened and what you will do to try to ensure it won’t happen again.
- Reward loyalty. Think about putting some form of customer loyalty programme in place. This can be particularly valuable if you are a business relying on repeat purchases and customer retention. It could be a discount on multiple purchases or a points system.
- Get referrals. Consider offering incentives and rewards to your customers for referring you to their network. For example, you can offer discounts for customers that post about you on Facebook or Twitter. Or give them access to extra functionalities of your programme in exchange for getting their contacts to use it.
- Surprise your customer. Do something they aren’t expecting. And it doesn’t have to be anything big. But make it personal. Maybe send them a thank you note when they referred a lead or in some other way helped spread the word. Or maybe even a bottle of wine. If you’re shipping a product you might want to think about some out of the ordinary packaging (that’s the kind of thing people share on Facebook…)
This blog post is written by Lisa Jansen, Start-up Marketing Executive at The Icehouse.