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Marketing Tactics

7 Creative Strategies For Marketing Your Start-up On A Tight Budget

Leveraging connections, special events, skills and the Web can give your business a special twist.

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Bootstrapping builds character. There are endless ways to finance your ideas, but there’s nothing like marketing a start-up with a modest budget to encourage innovation.

Limited funds give you an excuse to flex your creative muscle and truly share your vision with the world.

Don’t rely on the same old banner ads and Google reviews. Instead, try these eight marketing strategies to place the spotlight on your business.

1. Share your central “why”

“What do you do for a living?” This simple question is one you’re asked during almost every introduction. If you answer with a quick, “I’m an entrepreneur” (vague and a little diluted) or, “I run a small business” (makes people think of brick-and-mortar spots), you’re cheating yourself out of an opportunity to generate word-of-mouth marketing for your business.

Instead, develop a narrative that differentiates your company from others and sparks conversation. Does your startup support a certain cause with every sale? Say so. Did you come up with your business idea during a troubling life event? Mentioning it may inspire those around you.

Sharing your central “why,” as well as the story on how your startup came to be, will make your business more memorable to others. Plus, it will interest people more at parties.

Related: 7 Social Media Marketing Secrets No Marketer Wants To Admit

2. Don’t just sell – engage

As an entrepreneur, your instinct may push you to sell to everyone you meet. Though there’s nothing wrong with flaunting your brand now and then, it’s important to give your company relevance and participate in discussions that don’t quite revolve around your business.

With social media, it’s easy to engage your target demographic without looking like you’re just trying to advertise. Some businesses may leave encouraging comments on photos of people’s food; sports equipment retailers may “re-post” articles on a local high school basketball team’s recent win.

Build brand trust by showing your support, whether of your community or your online following.

Next time someone’s looking for a product or service within your niche, they’ll remember your kindness and go to you. Sharing someone else’s content doesn’t necessarily mean losing your audience’s attention.

You can use Start a Fire to create share-ready URLs that add branded badges to any Web page, so that when someone clicks on the links you post, they’ll see you there, along with more content that you recommend.

niche-business-market

3. Carve a niche and build industry credibility

Your start-up’s shoestring budget can’t keep you from carving out its own niche. Assemble a culture around your business by offering an insider’s perspective to those on the outside.

A blog can offer laymen the chance to understand your trade with a new perspective. A webinar or a podcast can help viewers (or listeners) feel like experts in your field.

Speaking at an incubator, expo or niche event can put you in the role of the teacher and allow you to share your ground-breaking ideas with an immediate audience.

The small business convention you attend every year is probably in need of a few more keynoters; why don’t you try speaking instead of observing?

Networking and sharing your expertise with others can help you prove your abilities to your community. A variety of people, from journalists to aspiring entrepreneurs, can help to create buzz around your business.

Try offering your expertise to small business newbies through forum sites like Quora, where thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs ask questions for pros to answer. You can also share your story by connecting with journalists online via Help a Reporter Out (HARO).

Related: 4 Social Media Tips For B2Bs

4. Help people discover your content

If your start-up is fit for the twenty-first century, it maintains some sort of online presence. In fact, you may be satisfied with just a website, some social media pages, a blog, or even a pre-launch Web page. Just because your content is online, though, doesn’t mean it’s easily discoverable by your target audience.

With every post you publish, use keywords specific to your niche, like “vegan leather tote” instead of “handbag,” for example, to improve your Google rankings.

You can also use these hyper-targeted keywords to power your social media-based audience acquisition. With Socedo, a social media automation tool, you can find Twitter users who post content using your niche keywords and engage with them over time.

Next, help people find your content by practicing a few SEO techniques, starting with your website.

Title your pages with phrases unique to your business so they stand apart from other sites.

Improve your website’s load speed by removing unnecessary plug-ins and long strings of code (perhaps a job for your Web developer), and always be sure to post original content instead of copying from another site.

There are countless options for improving your general SEO ranking, but taking care of a few easy tasks will boost your content’s position in search results for now.

e-coupons

5. Send out irresistible e-coupons

You’ve probably experienced coupon temptation before. Research shows that very few can resist the appeal of a great coupon; four out of five consumers use coupons regularly both in-store and online. Moreover, about half do business with a particular company because they were provided a coupon.

While you could go the old-fashioned route and distribute coupons via snail mail, exclusive e-coupons hit two birds with one stone by convincing more people to join your email list. There are also some clever ways to integrate e-coupons into your email marketing strategy.

Those who are already invested in your mission will appreciate the ways in which you thank them for their business. People new to your company will be more likely to join your following. It’s a win-win.

Related: 5 Ways To Improve Your Millennial Marketing Strategy

6. Scratch their back, they’ll scratch yours

If you’re just starting out, you may have a hard time introducing your company to the public. A great way to build a niche and generate word-of-mouth is through samples and giveaways.

Try reaching out to eager members of your target audience and offering up your commodity (or a sample slice of it) in return for a review and shares on social media.

Those who participate get a cool new item or experience to share with their friends, while you get trust and visibility – another win-win. You don’t want to give up your entire stock all at once, but sharing it with a select few could give you a marketing edge.

7. Co-sponsor an event within your niche

Every industry hosts its special events: The annual Carnegie Conference for traditional and digital marketers, VeritageMiami for U.S. winemakers and the Interior Design Hall of Fame gala for – you guessed it – interior designers. Unless an event is owned and managed by a single company, most planners seek out sponsors to help fund the event.

This provides you with a fantastic niche marketing opportunity. Next time you’re thinking about attending an event within your industry, see if it has any sponsorship spots open.

Related: The Importance Of Brand

Better yet, ask whether you can present there (or otherwise spotlight your company) to further engage attendees. Aside from giving you a good name, co-sponsoring a niche event allows you to meet and greet with your target demographic, network and generate new leads.

Your modest marketing budget doesn’t have to stop you from showcasing your startup. Leveraging connections, special events, skills and the Web can give your business a special twist. What creative marketing strategies have you used to spotlight your start-up?

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Marketing Tactics

6 Things To Consider For Putting Together Your Best Holiday Marketing Plan Yet

When autumn starts, will you be ready for the holidays, having already created a gift guide, email and social media strategies and more?

Syed Balkhi

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‘Tis the season for online shopping. Well, not quite yet, but it’ll be here before you know it. In fact, according to CPC Strategy’s survey results, 35.5 percent of shoppers surveyed planned on starting their holiday gift shopping before Thanksgiving. That’s why you need to start putting together your holiday marketing plan now.

As soon as autumn hits, shoppers are bombarded with stunning holiday advertising and jaw-dropping deals from companies that will be fighting for their attention during that busy season.

But how will your company break through the noise and get consumers to make holiday memories with your business?

Let’s get festive, then, and think about seven things you might consider when putting together your holiday marketing plan.

Create an email marketing strategy

There’s no better way to boost your holiday sales than to send deals straight into shoppers’ inboxes. Email still converts the best for online holiday shopping. According to Shopify, a staggering 8.8 billion data points were collected on Black Friday in 2017, in the form of email sign-ups and other lead-generation tactics.

Since holiday shopping starts as early as November, you’ll want to craft your email marketing messages now and schedule them to be sent automatically.

Not all customers are created equal, either, so use your customer data to segment your email marketing. For example, if a large proportion of your customer base are busy moms, don’t send a broad, generic email; instead, send them one with products and tips to ease their stress during the holiday season. Personalised emails will make you stand out from the rest.

Related: 5 Ways to Dazzle and Delight Your Customers This Holiday Season

Have a countdown timer for sales

holiday-store-open

Ever heard of FOMO (a.k.a. “the fear of missing out”)? Creating a sense of urgency is one of the most effective strategies to make consumers feel that something valuable is being offered that they don’t want to miss out on. An eye-catching way to create urgency is to display countdown timers for sales.

For example, American Express displayed a countdown to the expiration of a special Amazon deal it offered its customers.

You can easily add a countdown timer to your website for free using the T(-) Countdown plug-in for WordPress. Seeing a visual symbol, like a countdown timer ticking down the minutes, pushes consumers into action by raising the urgency level to high.

Think about a “free” shipping strategy

Since consumers today are spoiled with Amazon Prime and same-day shipping, your business needs to offer awesome shipping deals this holiday season in order to compete. By reducing shipping costs for your customers, you’ll increase your chances of shoppers buying from you instead of from a big-box retailer.

Want to offer free shipping but afraid of losing money? Set a minimum order amount – for instance, customers must spend $50 to unlock free shipping – or offer free shipping on select items, like your lightest items only.

That way, you can offer customers free shipping without cutting into your profits.

And remember to account for realistic shipping times and cutoffs throughout the season to ensure your customers receive their orders in time for the holidays.

Craft holiday-themed content

Content marketing is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your site, so add a little holiday cheer to your blog.

Crafting holiday-themed content will get your business in front of a ton of consumers searching Google for holiday-based and buyer keywords. Make sure your content is valuable to the reader; if it helps solve their holiday problems, they’ll be more likely to share it.

Lululemon does this well by creating holiday-themed lifestyle blog posts as well as posts about gift ideas for your loved ones.

Start thinking about content ideas now so you won’t have to scramble at the last minute. Brainstorm some fun holiday topics and plan out your content using a content calendar. CoSchedule offers free content calendar templates that will help keep you organised during this hectic season.

Related: Gear Up your Marketing for the Holiday Season

Devise a social media strategy

Getting festive on social media is a great way to capture the attention of shoppers on the lookout for deals, and to inspire a cheerful connection between consumers and your brand.

A great tip to avoid becoming overwhelmed come November is to create all your social media graphics ahead of time.

Don’t have a graphic designer? Don’t worry. Canva is a free tool where you can easily create all the stunning graphics you need to advertise your products with high gross margins and your free shipping holiday deal. You can also find fun images to use to wish your customers a happy holiday.

Schedule all your posts with a tool like Buffer, to make your life even easier. And consider enabling a Facebook retargeting pixel, too. It’s a highly effective strategy to recapture those shoppers who left your site without buying. When users abandon your site in search of other deals across the web, a retargeting ad will “follow” them and display specific ads to encourage them to return to you.

Create a holiday gift guide

Finding the perfect gift can be stressful, so make things easy for your customers by creating a holiday gift guide. With a gift guide, you’ll be able to showcase your best products and increase organic traffic by taking advantage of the shoppers searching “gift guides” on Google.

Etsy curates stunning products for a gift guide its shoppers can easily browse.

You don’t have to be a computer wiz to add a gift guide to your site, a clever hack to create your own is to use a free menu plugin for WordPress like Restaurant Menu by MotoPress. Instead of food photos, add photos of your products and product descriptions; your customers will now have a convenient way to see what items you recommend.

You can also reach out to other websites or publications that will feature your products in their gift guide so that even more people will discover you.

Don’t wait any longer: The holiday season is right around the corner. With these simple strategies, your holiday marketing will turn jaded shoppers into jolly customers, and the boost in your revenue will be the best gift you’ve ever received.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Related: 8 Shopping Habits Of Millennials All Retailers Need To Know About

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Marketing Tactics

Ask These 3 Questions To Determine Where To Spend Your Marketing Budget

Stretching your marketing budget is imperative, especially when there aren’t that many marketing rands to stretch.

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As you grow your business, it’s important to be creative and efficient with your money. When it comes to marketing, there are a number of cost-effective ways to spend and save your money. So, if you’re worried about marketing on a limited budget, here’s some helpful info to know.

First, great marketing is about highlighting wants and needs and attaching them to desired outcomes. It’s possible to do that regardless of budget — and every company’s strategy will be different.

For example, when my consultancy worked with Dollar Shave Club to grow its platform beyond viral videos, we focused on establishing a unique voice, which led to creating an editorial component. When we worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger on his fitness and nutrition products, we focused on creating a core mission and understanding why he was involved in the product. And when we worked with Four Sigmatic to market its coffees and teas, we focused on customer acquisition and retention.

Related: 5 Ways To Market Your Business On A Limited Budget

3 Questions that Cut Through the Clutter

Those projects all started with the same three questions: What is the value and purpose of your product or service? Who is your target audience? And what is the best platform on which to reach them? That’s where you’ll want to invest most of your attention before you determine where to spend your money. (Notice my word choice: Your planning is an investment; where you spend is a cost.)

1. In general, we prefer to use digital campaigns

It’s easier to track what works and what doesn’t. Plus, digital creates multiple opportunities to engage. Think of it this way: 10% of your audience will buy, 10% won’t and 80% will be on the fence. Would you rather have one shot to convince that 80%, or multiple? By retargeting through something like Facebook ads or Google, or even creating a distribution channel like an email list, you can communicate repeatedly.

2. If you don’t have an audience, spend money fishing in small ponds where you know you can get a bite, and then set yourself up to communicate repeatedly

(This is where creating content as a form of acquisition or building an email list can be incredibly valuable.) Depending on your product or service, this could mean a very targeted ad to a small audience on Facebook — rather than attempting to reach millions — or setting up a pop-up shop, or getting a spot at a local farmers’ market.

Related: 4 Unique Marketing Ideas For SMEs On A Budget

3. If you already have an audience, turn them into super-fans who will bring their peers into your universe

Identify previous buyers and give them direct access to you through focus groups or calls. Reward them for their time with product or a gift certificate. When you show your consumer that you care about and appreciate them, it not only increases the likelihood of repurchase but also helps them personally invest in the soul of the business. Not to mention, their insights will help you understand why they bought and how to replicate that process.

Whatever you do — and no matter how big or small your budget — keep finding better answers to the core marketing questions and your success won’t hinge on any one platform.

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Marketing Tactics

Gen Z Is Coming! Are You Ready?

How do you market your company to this generation?

Stuart Scanlon

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According to the CNBC, about 61 000 Gen Zers are on the verge of entering the workforce and consumer market in the US alone.

They are digital natives; they have grown up in a world of vines, txts (yes, we know) and internet. Their attention span is shorter than ever, they are more connected than any other generation, and they are brilliant multitaskers. Gen Z is a more tolerant generation but also more cautious; studies have found less risk-taking amongst this group and an increase in thoughtfulness and questioning authority.

So, on the one side of this coin, how do you market your company to this generation?

1. By being transparent

Be upfront about your business, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. They have lost faith in corporations. Thus, you must stop relying on and hiding behind small print. Yes, you need terms and conditions to protect your company, but when it looks like a miracle weight-loss advert of the 80s (“Eat anything you want just take this pill. Ts&Cs apply.”), you’ll lose customers.

Related: Investing in Young Entrepreneurs

Gen Z consumers want to see you are real; they don’t want models or celebrities but regular people who can assist them in a manner that speaks to them. And they will hold your business is socially accountable. Instead of producing millions of T-shirts at the cheapest possible price, they want local, equality and free-trade, and they want to know what businesses are doing for the environment and society.

Gen Z won’t accept your claims at your word; they want to see evidence in your company culture.

2. By offering options

A jewellery purchasing study has found that most Gen Zers don’t have a preferred shopping platform. What this means is your messaging, availability and culture need to be spread evenly across all contact points – sales, call centres, website and digital advertising. In fact, many Gen Z consumers rely on mixing their contact points.

That being said, they want immediate action. If they see something they want online, they will go to the shop just to have the item right now. More than immediacy, they also want custom-made or made-to-order products and services. They shy away from traditional made-to-stock methods, which creates plenty of room in the production industry.

3. By being forward thinking

We have to always remember what was mind-blowing inventions to other generations are the norm for Gen Zers. They hold brands and businesses to high expectations, and instead of being loyal to brands, expect brands to be loyal to them. As Gen Z is more focused on individuality, they are also proving to be a generation with a high entrepreneurial output. All this shows that they don’t want the norm; they don’t crave what’s new today, they want tomorrow, sustainability and innovation, and they want it now.

On the other side of the coin, how do you attract this generation to work at your company? In much the same way.

1. By being transparent

As much as you are hiring them based on what they bring to the table, so too are they looking at what you can afford them. But, they don’t just want to hear you tell them about the benefits, they want to see it – and they are not after just money. Gen Zers want to be financially secure, but also one that is fulfilling; one where they find purpose in their jobs and company.

2. By offering options

Gen Z employees don’t want to work eight to five, they don’t want to be chained to a desk, and they don’t want to be micro-managed. Give them flexibility on how they want to conduct their work and how they can communicate with their colleagues. Create an understanding workspace for their needs and help them improve their skills – for instance, it’s been reported that a stumbling block for Gen Zers is communication. Growing up with emojis and text messages make face-to-face conversations, business calls and writing emails difficult for them.

Gen Z employees want to work hard and grow their skills. Even though they’re growing up in a super-paced society, they want to climb the corporate ranks at the given speed. What they crave, with urgency, is gaining value from their jobs.

Related: The Z Generation

3. By being forward thinking

They are lateral thinkers, and their creativity is not just outside the box but has broken the box completely. Gen Z is incredibly tech-savvy, and they will challenge the systems and procedures you have in place if these are not providing the needed speed and data required. Thus, they crave to work in an environment where they can push boundaries and ultimately help the company move forward. Hiring from the Gen Z pool can provide you with innovative insights into your business that can grow it towards tomorrow’s giants.

The only way to be sure you are future-proofing your business is by guaranteeing it caters for future customers and employees, by relying on forward-thinking enterprise resource planning software, for instance. Epicor ERP software ensures that their clients stay agile and innovative through trusting top minds to build and develop intelligent systems that open doors for Gen Zers. It’s Epicor’s innate tech-savviness that allows them to visualise the landscape of tomorrow and develop the software to support it today.

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