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The First Important Steps For Marketing A Startup

The First Important Steps For Marketing A Startup

Startups may need time to grow from seed funding to fully profitable, but they can’t afford to waste any time on the journey from “Who?” to “Oh, I’ve heard of them.” There’s usually no getting around starting off as a “Who?” in most of your potential customers’ minds. Startups, by their very

Startups may need time to grow from seed funding to fully profitable, but they can’t afford to waste any time on the journey from “Who?” to “Oh, I’ve heard of them.”

There’s usually no getting around starting off as a “Who?” in most of your potential customers’ minds. Startups, by their very nature, have a history of infiltrating long-established markets and giving large, well-resourced competitors a run for their money. That, or they simply create a brand new category of products and services overnight.

In both cases the role of marketing is arguably even more important than it would be in a traditional company. Sometimes the products and services a startup offers can’t be monetized right away. Their ability to attract investors may be dependent in part on their ability to gain an audience of people interested in what they have to say.

This would be a challenge for any firm, but startups may not have a large marketing team or budget at the beginning. Running a 30-second TV ad starring a celebrity during the Super Bowl? Not going to happen. Having a billboard on the highway is probably out of reach. Producing a conference or event can also be expensive.

On the flip side, startups may be savvier about the opportunities digital technologies present. They might have developed an innovative new technology themselves, and if they were part of an incubator or accelerator program they might have been introduced to a range of other out-of-the-box tech companies. Startups also know, however, that the tools only pay off if you have a strong strategy around how you’ll use them.

There are plenty of tactics that could support a startup marketing strategy, but you need to think about the order in which you pursue them. Otherwise you could wind up chasing too many different avenues at once without getting very far with any of them.

Instead, see if this kind of journey could work for your startup:

1. Build a critical mass of audience members organically with content

Startup founders have to be good at articulating their big, bold ideas to get the initial investment they need from venture capitalists or other sources. Your marketing strategy could start by having them do something similar to draw people to your website.

Through guest-posts in newspapers, magazines or industry blogs, for example, create thought leadership content that attracts the attention of your target audience. If they appreciate what they read, they’ll click through the link to your startup site in the bio. This is where you greet them with an offer to subscribe to your newsletter.

Do the same thing with your own blog, using detailed keyword research so that you’ll quickly be discovered on Google when someone is looking for the kind of products and services you’re offering. Search engine optimization (SEO) doesn’t always require a lot of upfront capital, just consistent effort over a period of time. It can really pay off.

Think about more longform pieces of content you can give away in exchange for prospects handing over their contact info to become a sales lead. Whitepapers and eBooks are a good place to start, but so are on-demand webinars, infographics and podcasts. Content should be the anchor of your startup marketing strategy. Everything else is largely about distribution and engaging with your audience.

2. Extend your reach through social media and advertising

Create your account. Set up your profile. Start following like-minded people and companies. Post interesting, relevant stuff and like or reshare the best of what your followers post. That’s a social media strategy in a nutshell.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, Clubhouse — there are more than enough social media platforms available for you to market your startup. You might not choose to be on all of them (and if you do, there are tools to make managing your presence across multiple services easier). The point is to experiment and learn.

Beyond blasting out information about your company, social media is also a great place to listen to the market about their challenges and pain points. If nothing else, it will give you greater insight into the kind of marketing messages that will resonate with them.

You can also run paid social campaigns to increase the visibility of your accounts without spending a lot of money. The same is true for online advertising in general. A highly targeted campaign where you closely track performance can be highly cost-effective.

3. Offer freemium versions, trial offers And Follow Up With UGC And Referrals

As you develop a larger audience, you have to give them something more than content.

Even if your products and services come with a price tag attached, see if you can offer a freemium version — where they can use some of the basic features without paying anything. This can help generate good word of mouth, both online and off.

Other startups have been successful with 30-day trials of their full product, especially when they use ads and other tools to hone in on the most likely influencers or ideal customer personas to offer them.

Hopefully people will appreciate and enjoy those freemium versions or trial offers. If they do, they’ll likely share their experience, either on their own blog or on social media. Keep track of all this user generated content (UGC), because it can become a highly credible market asset when you aggregate or repurpose it.

Those same early adopters can also become marketing ambassadors if you create a referral program. There’s an incentive for them to promote you to their network, and if they truly love your products and services they’ll feel good about doing so. Your startup, in the meantime, will be on a fast track to growing your customer base.

There’s so much more you could do to market a startup, but make sure these three steps are covered off early on and the “Oh, I’ve heard of them” phase of your story will come to life a lot sooner.

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