Business Insights

Budget-Friendly Marketing Tips For Startups

Avoid becoming a “zombie startup.” Get your name out there with content.

There is no shortage of new companies creating exciting products and services for consumers. But, more often than not, we’ve seen that these companies treat marketing as a luxury — while they treat product development and raising capital as the only arenas they need to master to succeed.

Most entrepreneurs are familiar with the saying: the road to success is paved with failure. While there’s definitely some truth to this idiom, in 2016, 22% of startups failed in their first year, and 50% fail in only their fifth. This statistic could be true for a variety of reasons. But one thing is certain: to be on the succeeding side of these numbers, people need to buy your product or service. For people to buy your product or service, they need to know who you are. To get people to know who you are, you need marketing efforts.

In 2013, Danielle Morrill, the Founder & CEO of Mattermark, published a blog in which she coined the term “zombie startup.” The term refers to this scenario: After painstaking hours put in to perfecting a product and launching it, the numbers don’t start trickling in, your traffic doesn’t grow, and revenue is little to nothing.

The worst part? It takes a long time to realize you’re dying, or dead altogether. Morrill warns, “don’t spend your 20s, 30s, or 40s, being a zombie.” I’m with Morrill on this one.  

Maybe you’re not on the zombie path. Perhaps you have recognized the importance of marketing. So, you’ve made sure to hire a friend from university to head your marketing department (their degree in Forensic Botany might come in handy… right?) We’ve seen this all-too-often — startups reaching out to us in crisis mode after hiring a team of 1 to generate traffic, leads, downloads, growth hack, manage social media, answer the phones, scrub the toilet… and aren’t progressing as quickly as they had planned.

Before you reach this zombified state, there are measures you can take to set yourself up for success. It’s simple: solid marketing practices leads directly to traffic, downloads, and sales. It is not a shiny luxury reserved for more successful businesses, and simply hiring a sales team won’t cut it, either. First step? Creating content.

Our goal is to work with startups when it matters most, before they look for a serious investment. If your business is not aggressively working at building awareness, traffic and clients,  you just won’t make the cut. This doesn’t mean you need to be spending all of your budget on paid traffic and user acquisition.  You’ll also hear the term “growth hacking” thrown around but at the foundation of it all is content.

Here are our tips to market your business through content on a budget.

1. Don’t Underestimate Content

The beauty of content creation is that it costs nearly nothing. The challenge? Online audiences expect quality content llike never before. Times are changing, and social media habits are no exception.

In 2014, there were under 2 billion users on social media, and 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute! Today, there are 3 billion active social media users, and there are over 300 hours of video content uploaded to YouTube every minute. That’s your competition.

 marketing for startups2. Create an E-Book

Another kind of content you can easily produce: a piece of downloadable content that users will want, and download in exchange for an email address. Not only will you receive a valuable email address from an interested user, you are solidifying your credibility as an expert in your field. Don’t worry, you don’t need to write another To Kill A Mocking Bird, the idea is that you are sharing your expertise with others. You can even repurpose some of the previous content you’ve created, or vice versa: write a seminal piece of content for your company, gate it, and distribute it in pieces on other channels such as your blog, Medium, or LinkedIn pulse. Bonus points: it can also double as a sales tool if you have an offline sales team.

3. Think Evergreen

It takes almost no money to create lasting content. It would be wise to focus on creating content that adds value to your key audience’s lives, rather than create spammy SEO content (gone are the days of keyword stuffing). In fact, you can create branded content for your business from Day 1. The writing can be done by a team member, or it can be outsourced entirely.

4. Special Partnerships

Keeping your ear to the ground means more than getting a topo-view of the competition. You can also find a company within your space that is heavily engaged with their following. Is there a way you can build a mutually beneficial partnership to share user-bases? For example: mattress company Casper’s partnership with home decor store West Elm. These brands are not direct competitors, so promoting and selling to each other’s audiences is a safe move. It’s an agreement that benefits both companies.

5. Social Media Presence

Creating noise around your brand is the cornerstone of your public image. The very reason social media marketing exists is to take advantage of the 3 billion people around the world on online platforms. It’s a space that you build your brand and increase awareness, through building relationships and communicating with prospects. If there’s no online conversation about your product, no matter how good it is, you will struggle to make sales. Start the conversation from your personal accounts as much as you can, especially if your objective is to become a thought leader in your space. Get your name in relevant conversations as much as possible. 

6. Track Your Traffic

It’s a basic rule of thumb, yet a mistake that so many businesses make. It doesn’t matter what marketing measures you make, if you ultimately can’t track the traffic. The importance of accurate tracking is often underestimated. Point blank, you want to know what’s working and what’s not working, so that you can pour more effort, attention, and money into the avenues that do work.

Not prioritizing marketing is a surefire way to stunt your growth. Sales and product strategy isn’t the way to propel your business to success. You need to be proactive to stop the zombification process before it starts. Building a foundation of prospects starts way before your product is ready to launch.

Learn how to make your startup’s marketing a priority with BDG. Click here.

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