Your startup may literally be the best new thing since sliced bread, but if you can't market it, the world will not even be able to find the path to your door.
If you think outside the box, you can put together a campaign that—if effectively executed—will increase brand awareness, grow your audience, and increase revenue.
This kind of startup marketing is currently referred to as growth hacking because hackers use original ways of quickly solving a problem or conquering an obstacle.
Calling something a hack does not mean it's easy or worry-free. Growth hacking is, frankly, one of those things that is easier said than done.
But if you're struggling, ready to try anything that might build your base, and willing to work hard for success, try some of these hacks:
1. Free stuff encourages people to sign up, and sooner or later they will buy.
Offer them a limited time discount, free shipping, or a buy one and get one free deal. You can give free trials, samples, or services to influencers that align with your brand's values, and then you can ask them for reviews.
2. Identify brands with values similar to yours and collaborate with them.
Collaborating with a brand that shares your values—and therefore may have followers that would like to know who you are—can help your brand make noise, gain visibility, and expand connections. Co-marketing is a growth strategy that can be effective in building your social media buzz and acquiring relevant organic traffic.
3. Build your brand’s following by running social media contests.
Be creative and run a contest with a prize that excites your audience and is related to your brand. Make a contest rule that to enter you need to follow your social media accounts and/or subscribe to your newsletter.
4. Give perks in exchange for referrals.
An effective hack is to get consumers to promote your products for you. Offer them perks when they refer new followers to you. Make it easy to share your products by creating a link or online code to be shared with anyone.
5. Make your fans into evangelists for your brand and be an evangelist yourself.
This kind of evangelism is a current version of WOMM: word of mouth marketing. A brand evangelist spreads the word about your product or service through their personal network and reputation.
Research has shown that over 90% of consumers trust recommendations from family and friends over any other form of advertising. So word of mouth works, but how do you actually do it?
People who have an emotional connection to a brand feel as if the brand's success depends on their involvement. They identify with and buy into the brand story you are putting in front of them.
Put in the time and work to connect with people. Your team members know the product, the company, the culture, and your values. Therefore, they make the best evangelists. When hiring, keep in mind that you want team members who can and will spread your word while they fill the roles you hired them for.
6. Work on creating a cult around your brand.
Think Nike or Apple or Ikea: they are among the limited number of big brands with cult-like followers. The people who identify this strongly with a brand can be obsessive and passionate, but they are also really good at marketing your brand.
Every product that finds long term success fills a common need and resonates with real people. These folks have the potential to get truly excited about these products. There are features found across those brands that created cults from their customer base. Here's what we can learn from them:
- Your brand shouldn't be mainstream. It should standout and be different.
- Members have to have courage or they wouldn't join a cult, so your brand also has to have courage.
- Your marketing should be about a lifestyle, not just a product, so be sure your brand is fun.
- Potential followers want to feel valued. They're buying into something. So you should listen to them! They need to know their voices are being heard.
- Brand cults generally do not spontaneously form. The brand works to enable the creation of the community. This can happen when you effectively communicate your story, message, and goal.
- Of course, a community that spawns this kind of following is not insular. It is accepting of all devotees.
7. Seek publicity, and don't be afraid of upsetting people.
There is obviously a risk in using bad publicity to grow your startup. But there is both effective and ineffective bad publicity. Bad publicity is more likely to improve new brands, not so much older or established ones.
Good publicity is usually better than bad. Bad publicity can work for you, but don't lose track of the fact that good is better. So go positive if you have that option.
The bottom line is be fearless. The more publicity, the better.
Wrapping it up
Rarely does success come by accident, and it doesn't always come via traditional means. Effectively using alternative marketing methods increases the odds of success. If you're just starting out and looking for some ways to grow your new business, keep some of these growth hacks in mind. You can try them out and see what works for you and what your audience responds to. After all, growth hacking is an experiment driven technique. With some trial and error, you'll figure out some effective ways to grow your business.
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