The hardest part of starting your own business is trying to juggle your meagre budget. The bootstrapping approach does not lend itself to multi-million dollar customer acquisition campaigns.
But if you are a pauper rather than a prince, fret not. There are ways you can push your brand out there while keeping your limbs firmly attached to your body.
Not all of them will be free, but all of them should be effective and form the basics of your future marketing strategy.
Do social media well:
Social media is the ubiquitous elephant in the room in any marketing conversation. Yes it’s true that you increasingly have to pay to get any kind of reach but it’s also true that if you put together a kick-ass strategy, you can boost your organic reach AND your top of mind recall for very little money.
But here’s the caveat. Social media can be very, very time-consuming, and if you don’t have a budget to play the game that the big networks want (pay to amplify) then it can be a lengthy process to build up your audience to a level where your voice makes a difference.
The best piece of advice I could give is to understand your audience and give them something that represents your ethos and motivates them to interact. Whether its extra mile customer service, a little bit of sass or useful and shareable information.
Anyone who lives in Singapore can see this in action with the Straits Times weather tweets, that have been causing a stir with an irreverent tone and super-cheesy jokes.
This tweet alone garnered more than 3,000 Retweets and 1,500 favourites. That’s more than 500 times the normal level of interaction on the account.
Take SEO seriously:
I’m sure as a start-up you get battered over the head on a daily basis by SEO, the importance of and how you can do it best. But the truth is it really does work.
The power of organic search is something no one should underestimate. With more than 80% of the traffic from a search term going to the top five links.
And the beauty is that it really doesn’t take that much effort (unless you are in super competitive field like beauty blogging or e-commerce fashion) to get your page ship-shape.
First up you should use a simple SEO assessment website (like Woorank) that will tell you the major things you need to do get Google liking your site.
The other thing you should do is invest in backlinking. This is where an SEO agency comes into the frame. When you’re starting off, you don’t need to spend tens of thousands every month on your SEO. In fact there are plenty of boutique agencies out there who will both guarantee you top five search for a handful of your keywords and help you decipher the jargon for less than most companies pay their intern.
Once there is traction, the smartest thing to do would be to keep the site relevant to search engines, by doing things like…
Create content that shares knowledge:
Content marketing is the new in thing. Since people started switching off from being directly sold things through ads, the focus has increasingly been on selling indirectly through content.
One of the best ways you can do that is through social media and through a blog. Both will probably hit different audiences and have different styles, but both will have a positive effect on your SEO ranking if done well.
So now you understand you need to write. What do you write about?
Lots of founders create blogs that focus on themselves, that’s great for them. But ultimately – unless their story and their journey are incredible, and honest – they are more likely to raise their own profile and for the sake of investors rather than generate goodwill with consumers.
My advice would be to share real knowledge. Knowledge that indirectly benefits your business and also cements your position as a go to influencer on the topic. Make sure it is something your potential customers would want to search for if they weren’t directly searching for your product.
A quick test – search for sous vide recipes on your browser and see what you find. How many of those sites on page one are NOT owned by sous vide manufacturers? The answer is probably zero. And that’s the power of good, engaging content.
Focus on mobile:
Anyone who has been on public transport anywhere in the past five years cannot fail to see the importance of mobile and handheld devices. So anyone looking to market needs to make sure their business or product looks awesome on a smaller screen.
Research just released by Google shows the rise of the smartphone in our everyday lives. According to them, we spend 170 minutes per day peering into our phones, 120 minutes on a computer and 75 minutes on a tablet.
So if you break that down. It shows that collectively handheld devices account for 245 minutes of your screen based attention each day. You are more than twice as likely to have a touch-point with someone on a screen less than 10” than a laptop or desktop.
The research from Think With Google, also shows that 39% of people only search on a smartphone.
39% of people search only on a smartphone and 28% on a smartphone and another device. So that’s more than 50% of all people searching using their phones each and every day.
Leverage your networks:
It might sound obvious, but businesses have always been built on relationships. And this isn’t going to change just because we are in the digital era.
Remember that Bill Gates’ first deal was through his parents’ and your friends, contacts and investors can open doors for you if you play the game in the right way.
The only advice I would ever give on this is to not spam people. If you think they can help, have a good old-fashioned conversation. Spend time to spot the opportunity, and then work out how you might be able to help each other.
And remember. Help is a two way street. Think about what you can do to help others when you can. It will pay off for you in the long run.
Adam Flinter is managing partner at Golden Equator Consulting, a company which helps start-ups, SMEs and mid-stage businesses with their strategy and growth.