You’re now the proud founder of a new startup, congrats! The next step in establishing your new business is building brand awareness and tempting in those crucial new customers. As a startup business, you know only too well that every penny counts. Marketing on a shoestring is no easy feat, yet it’s crucial to driving your success. The good news is that it is achievable and there are plenty of easy, affordable options to get your name out there without blowing your budget.
Here, we run through five creative, budget-friendly strategies for marketing your startup on a shoestring.
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Do Your Research
Researching and planning your marketing strategy early on saves precious time and money in the long run. As time invested in implementing a thoughtful marketing plan drives and maintains steady lead-generation over time and improves customer retention.
Start with the basics. Map out what you want your brand to represent, your target audience and your ideal brand message. Use your company’s mission statement or your core values as a starting point. This essential knowledge will largely inform the focus and direction of your efforts, foster brand consistency and help avoid needless spending on invaluable resources. For example, if you pinpoint the age of your target audience to 50+, you’ll know from research that your money would be better spent on Facebook than on Youtube. Whereas, if your ideal customer is in their mid to late teens, the most successful marketing approach will be to proliferate content across multiple channels with a heavy focus on ‘younger’ platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram.
Consider this to be your working marketing roadmap. Use it as the foundation of your marketing plan, building upon it as your business grows.
Build an Online Presence
In the modern, ever-increasingly digital, age it goes without saying that building a strong online presence is essential for any new business. This not only includes creating a user-friendly and SEO-optimised website (more on that in a minute), but also active involvement across various social media channels.
A powerful website should tell your story, grow your audience and sell your products. And, look good at the same time! Fortunately, you don’t need to hire costly web designers to launch a professionally designed website. There are a number of free or low-cost and user-friendly website builders available such as GoDaddy, Wix, and WordPress. Better yet, they’re based around simple templates, meaning it’s easy to build a great digital presence without being a tech guru.
Consider SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) from the start. No matter how pretty and user-friendly the site is, if potential customers can’t find it then it’s effectively useless. Take the time to learn the basics, and keep up to date with current trends and algorithm updates. Moz has a learning center over on their website that covers all the need-to-know SEO basics, and their articles are free! If, and when, you have extra room in your budget, consider bringing in an SEO expert to give your site the once-over.
Get Social Media Savvy
Engaging current and potential customers through social media is the other key component of building your digital empire! With a staggering 39 million users on social media in the UK, social media can be a powerful tool in promoting your business. If, it’s used in the right way.
Use targeted social media campaigns to market to your niche. There’s a wealth of statistics online that break down social media usage by platform, age group, and location. Research undertaken by social media management platforms such as Sprout Social offers valuable insight into the differences between generational behaviors, perceptions, and expectations. For example, they estimate that 30% of Millennials engage with a brand on social media at least once a month, Facebook is the preferred site for Baby Boomers and 7 in 10 Gen Xers will likely buy from brands they follow.
Consistency is key. Tailor your messages to each social media platform but make sure the messaging is professional and on-brand throughout. For example, Twitter and Facebook are suited to more playful, visual posts compared to Linkedin which is a more business-focused platform. A quick and affordable way of gaining new followers is boosting your content through social media advertising. Costing only a small fee per post, it’s a low cost but high return option to widen your reach.
Social media also provides a vital resource for fostering meaningful relationships with existing clients and building a mutually beneficial online community. It’s not just a sales pitch. Sharing quality content from other publications, alongside your own, will encourage fans to seek out your platform as a useful resource. You can also use it to involve your audience with brand decisions, for example getting feedback on a new product you’re working on. Essentially, you gain unlimited access to a free market research group, and you increase brand loyalty as followers feel more valued.
Another way to engage existing followers and build buzz for your business are hosting a social media contest. Ask people to follow, like and comment on your posts, and tag friends for additional entries. Take, for example, Diaper-ezz’s recent Instagram contest where they asked people to follow their profile and share a cloth diaper success story for the chance to win a covetable Colibri Double Duty Wet Bag. Followers could also tag a friend for additional entries, ensuring tonnes of social engagement. And it cost next to nothing as the giveaway was provided by the manufacturer!
Another option is to tie in a social contest with hosting your own giveaway, engaging people with the chance of winning a desirable item. Giving away free products may seem counterintuitive, especially when you’re strapped for cash, but giveaways can be an incredibly powerful tool. They help build brand awareness, increase follower engagement and create a memorable brand experience. The reason is simple: people love free things!
With giveaways, the goal is to reach as many people as possible and inspire them to develop a long-lasting connection with your brand. Keep your budget in mind when looking for products to use as part of the promotion, look for cost-effective items, like button badges, enamel pins or handy keyrings. Practical, reusable items also maximise brand awareness as people wear or use them time and time again.
Partner with other businesses
Another way to promote your startup on a shoestring budget is to join creative forces with another business. As a new enterprise, you’re eager to connect with new audiences but don’t have the cash to spend on major campaigns. Partnering up is a budget-friendly strategy to help you reach a whole new set of potential customers. This way, you can cost-effectively expand your reach and build a sales pipeline by pooling your resources and connecting with each other’s customer bases.
For example, fitness fashion innovators Fabletics recently partnered up with beauty brand Blissworld to create a 12-day #SelfCareSunday promotion. Both companies benefited from reaching a new captive audience without spending big bucks.
The key to building a successful promotion partnership is to find businesses that closely align with your brand’s ethos and serve a similar target audience to your own. A well-executed collaborative campaign will be mutually beneficial for both brands, introducing each to a whole new customer base and adding value to their own offering. From running cross-promotional ads to creating co-sponsored content, the opportunities for partnership promotion are endless.
Last, but not least, content marketing. The phrase ‘content is king’ has become ubiquitous in online marketing publications of late, and for good reason. Well-written, thoughtful content is a highly effective and budget-friendly way to promote your business. It builds brand awareness, improves your SEO and most importantly engages current and potential customers which will in turn increase sales in the long-run.
The best place to start is creating a company blog where you share the latest industry-related insights, tips, and expert advice. Sharing compelling content via your blog and social media helps people find your website, and demonstrates your value.
Another idea is to seek out ‘guest post’ opportunities on other blogs or publications that align with your company ethos. For example, a marketing company might approach an online publication for startups about writing an article around email marketing success.
This list just scratches the surface of all the budget-friendly strategies you can use to market your new business. Ultimately, you can achieve big results with a small marketing budget. But, keep in mind that investing ample time and money on promotion plays an essential role in nurturing and growing your business long-term. Experiment with different methods in the early stages and determine which works best for your business.
For example, if you’re a B2B tech startup, you may find that combining email with content marketing delivers the most impactful results. On the other hand, a beauty e-commerce startup might benefit more from focusing on social media campaigns. Every business is unique, so there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. The trick is to hone your techniques, closely monitor their impact and clarify which is the most effective for your brand. Ultimately, getting started is the important first step! So, choose one of the budget-friendly strategies above and start marketing your startup today.
Michelle Adams is part of the team at Rocket Badge, an established UK manufacturer of custom badges.