When your company is just getting off the ground, you may find yourself in a somewhat tenuous position. You know you need to spend money to get customers, but you also don’t have a lot of money to spend. So what are seven smart ways for a startup to spend their marketing?
1. Know Your Needs
Before you can start spending your money, you need to spend your time. You need to have a concrete understanding about what you want your marketing to achieve. Are you hoping to use your budget to gain new customers? Improve your sales funnel? Increase customer engagement?
Once you know what you want to do with your marketing, you’ll narrow the options for how to get it. This will help you go from “spend money on everything” towards “spend money on this specific thing.”
2. Know What You Can Afford To Lose
Companies may hear about a great new marketing strategy and want to throw their entire budget at it, without considering whether or not it will pay off like they need it to. When you’re looking at a marketing possibility, know what your ROI needs to be, and know what the consequences will be if you don’t get it.
3. Free Opportunities
There are so many free opportunities that people don’t consider when it comes to marketing. Can your business volunteer at a community event in exchange for a hanging a few banners? If your restaurant brings snacks and drinks to the local trade show, can you hand out some flyers? Have you crafted business events and accolades into high quality press releases and sent them to both local media and trade publications? Have you created accounts on social media sites?
Companies often leap for the ideas that are actually really expensive, and forget the free ways to get their name out into the world.
4. Great Website
A great website doesn’t have to be a paid website, although sometimes the two do go together. With many website hosts these days, there are tools available that will let you use some basic drag and drop elements to create a website that looks at the bare minimum put together and presentable.
From there, having an expert go through and spruce up the language, make sure elements flow together well, and perhaps create some custom graphics can all give your business an air of authority that is hugely beneficial. Even refreshing old content can be an effective way to attract new traffic.
5. Marketing Plan
Next, you need to sit down and create a serious, solid marketing plan. Look at what you’ve done so far in terms of creating a web presence and a community presence and consider where you’re seeing results. How can you maximize those results? How can you make sure to continue to build on your successes? If things aren’t working, is it because you’re doing them wrong, or because your market just isn’t in that location? Knowing why something isn’t working is as important as knowing that it just isn’t working.
You can generally create your own marketing plan, and having one in place will save you a ton of money down the road as you approach your marketing in an organized manner instead of flinging spaghetti at the refrigerator and seeing what sticks.
6. Marketing Tools
Marketing has come a long way in the past ten years, and maintaining all the different elements of an online marketing strategy on your own is complicated. Thankfully there are marketing tools available that can help you figure out what’s going right, and what needs fine tuning. Look for free or freemium options for web analytics, social media automation and more.
With web analytics in particular, it’s generally agreed that these numbers are never exact, and that it’s worth looking a few different sources to get a broader idea of where your views and engagement really are.
Startups often think of outsourcing as more expensive than DIYing it, but the cost of a marketing strategy that fails can be much more than the outlay of that content; it can damage a business’s reputation and customer perception in ways that it could be impossible to recover from.
If you really and truly know nothing about how to market a business, outsourcing some or all of your marketing may be a smart move for your business, and may cost you less in the long run.
Some prime areas for marketing outsourcing:
- Content marketing. If your business is reaching out to customers through a blog or through articles posted on various contributor sites, having those pieces written by a professional freelancer can be a huge boon to your business. A good freelancer can adopt any tone you want, from very professional to very casual, and pieces are generally ghostwritten, which means that when you pay for the content, you get to use your own byline, and get your own credit.
- Social media management. Running a successful social media strategy is more than just making sure you post on Facebook occasionally; it involves knowing what’s happening with various hashtags and trending posts, how various social media platforms are used, what tone gets the best result in each area, and how to combine all of these factors into a single cohesive strategy. Having someone keep your social media running for you can also help you stay focused on work instead of following people who rate dogs on Twitter, at least during work hours.
- Overall strategy. Some companies work by setting up a media strategy for you and then letting you run it yourself. If you’re fairly confident in your ability to research keywords, create graphics, write well for the market, and produce competent video, this can be a great cost saver.
With so many small businesses getting off the ground, great marketing can make or break a startup. And if you’re crowdfunding your business, don’t think that your work starts on launch day; plan your marketing out well in advance for maximum success.