Startup marketing. Words that strike fear in many a new CEO. After all, you’ve invested all of your time, energy, and money into getting the product ready for launch, building your core team, and little things like finding office space. You’ve got nothing left to sink into marketing that shiny new widget you’ve developed. Take it from us, don’t forgo the marketing, if you don’t sell any widgets, what was all that other work for?
Marketing is a far-ranging topic, and startups do indeed require their own special flavor of marketing. With that in mind, we’ve combed through our experiences and culled the topics down to a select few that we feel are the places to focus your limited marketing energy. Use this article as a starting point, a guidebook if you will, so that as you ramp up you can rest assured your marketing machine is going to be able to ramp up right along with you.
Adopt a multiple timeline approach
You’re building this company with the aim of it being around for the long-haul, right? So your marketing strategy should assume the same tact. At the same time, you have an immediate need to start selling product, and then there’s the mid-range to think about as well. By adopting a plan that covers all three time frames, you can be sure to put your marketing efforts to the most appropriate use.
This is the pre-launch stage, while you’re still building your team, buying a domain, and leasing an office. There’s no better time than now to start getting the word out. Press releases, initial general-interest style blog pieces, and social media presence are all appropriate places to spend some of your limited resources.
This is also the best time to develop and document your brand voice guidelines. This set of documents is where you lay out everything from what font to use for the company name to how big the logo should be on press releases and letterhead. It’s also where you outline what your brand voice is and what tone you want your blog pieces and Facebook status updates to have. Everything is fair game, even down to specifying how long before a comment needs to be responded to or a mention acknowledged.
Ramp up the content creation as much as you can. This is when you want to really start cranking out the informative, engaging blog posts and start creating other media to use in social posts. Everything from employee story videos to infographics showing your audience exactly how your widget will solve their problems and address their pain points. This is when you’ll start seeing an increase in views and click-throughs from your social media output, so it’s also when you’ll want to be sure someone is monitoring those channels closely so as to not miss anything requiring a response.
This is also when you’ll want to branch out, looking for sites to do guest posts on, scheduling a podcast appearance or two, and increasing the press releases. Keep an eye out for niche influencers to collaborate with as well.
This is where all that content work going back to day one will show fruit in the form of fantastic ROI. By using your content wisely, playing the long game that is SEO, and engaging people on social media, you’ll have potential customers showing up day and night. You won’t even have to actively market, you’ll be able to continue creating great content, increasing your audience's sense of trust in your brand, and watch the conversions roll in.
That said, it’s key to continue churning out that content. Remember to address common pain points among your target personas, and don’t forget to write to the individual, not to a demographic. Use first person language. It’s OK in this context because this isn’t business writing per se. And keep your social media presence vital and active, as that’s a huge source of those conversions. It’s the people who have been following you from the early days who will be converting now. They’ve had a chance to get to know you and your company, they like the voice, and your product resonates with them. That’s what all this effort was about, right?
Use existing assets
Being cash-strapped doesn’t mean you have to cut corners. It just means you need to make full use of the assets you have at your disposal. And that includes your precious employees. Remember how you’re the scrappy underdog? Play that up, it makes great content and you can use your employees in videos talking about working for such a hard-working outfit. They can talk about what a fantastic environment you’ve created, with all that creative energy flowing, and people collaborating, and the amazing product that’s about to launch that will solve all the problems your audience has ever had.
Testimonials are an unsung hero of the startup marketer’s arsenal. Have employees talk about the amazing office culture. Have customers talk about how phenomenal your sales team is and how helpful and kind your support team is to work with.
Have a core team member with a background in customer experience? Great, have them help establish that support team so that when your first customer calls in, they’re ready to go, offering exactly the help needed, with the smile the customer has already come to expect.
Have a writer on staff too? Awesome, guess who’s going to create those initial blog posts and Facebook updates?
Know your audience, and know where to reach them
Perhaps the single most important piece of marketing advice we can give you is simply this—know your audience.
You want people to buy your widget. You know what your widget is capable of, you know how much it can help people with a very particular problem. Do you know WHO is most likely to be having that problem in the first place? Because that’s who you want to be targeting with all of the other advice on offer here. If your product fills a gap in the tax preparation software ecosystem, what good would it be to market to delivery drivers or elementary school teachers?
On top of knowing your buyers better than they know themselves, you need to know where they’re already spending their time online. Because that’s where you’re going to want to spend the most time spreading the word. If you know your potential buyers are tax preparers in the 35-45 age bracket, you can probably skip Snapchat and instead spend your social media energy and budget on Linkedin posts and Facebook ads.
So be sure to spend some quality time with your marketing and sales staff, doing your research and developing some solid buyer’s personas that you can then use as target audience personas as well. That way, you ensure your efforts are going in the right place, at the right time, to reach the right people.
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