Starting or running a business isn’t for shrinking violets. You can have the best product or service in the world but if you don’t shout about it, no one will ever know. And it doesn’t take long to realise that your customers won’t magically appear out of nowhere, right?
It’s up to you to know your audience, why they need your product or service, where they hang out and how best to reach and convince them. And unfortunately, it doesn’t happen overnight.
In the early days, it’s all about bootstrapping. You’re pretty much doing it all yourself, on a minimum or non-existent budget, just trying to establish your brand in the market. But you reach a point where you need to take a step up to get help marketing your start-up. For most businesses, this happens when you’ve landed some investment and have a bit more cash to play with – although you won’t be booking that million-dollar ad campaign just yet.
But even though you know you need to dial up your marketing, it can be difficult to know where to start. Looking for some help? Here’s some essential steps to follow:
What’s your budget?
Now you’ve got a bit more capital to work with, setting a budget will help you focus, prioritise and plan your strategy. Try to think at least six months ahead so you have time to build up momentum with your marketing and measure the effectiveness of your approach.
What are your objectives?
Chances are they have something to do with ‘attracting customers’. But what kind of users are you looking to attract? And what do you want them to do? It might be that you’re in the pre-launch stage, in which case you may want to build up a waiting list. Or perhaps you want to attract more investors? Gather as much detail as possible as it all influences your approach.
Who are you talking to?
Who exactly is going to buy your product or service? How old are they? Where do they live? What other interests do they have? Build a deep understanding of your customer , so you can develop a strategy with these people firmly in mind.
How are you going to reach them?
Now it’s time to prioritise your marketing tactics. In terms of options, you’re broadly looking at the following:
• PR: Persuading the media (journalists) to write about your business, brand or CEO.
• Social media: Building up your communities and promoting your brand on sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.
• Content marketing: Creating your own content for your website or blog. It could be written articles, longer reports, videos or graphics. This is then promoted through social media, online advertising and via direct channels.
• SEO: AKA Search Engine Optimisation. AKA ensuring your online content can be found by the search engine gods, such as Google.
• Online advertising: Targeting your audience with paid slots on search engines, social media and other sites.
• Direct marketing: This could be via email newsletters, email sales or telemarketing.
• Influencer marketing: Increasingly popular, particularly for consumer brands, this is where you ask (and usually pay) influential bloggers and social media stars to promote your products for you.
• Networking: Often overlooked, but super cheap and effective for start-ups and small businesses, although it does take your precious time.
As a lot of these different approaches go hand in hand, you ideally want a combination of tactics to get the best results. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, as they say! But remember to always keep your budget, objectives and target audience in mind. Ask yourself - which of these is my audience most likely to see and respond to? Which is going to achieve my goals? And of course, which is going to achieve the maximum return on your investment?
What can you do yourself?
Even for those without a marketing background, there are plenty of activities you and your team can do yourselves. Just remember that your biggest barrier is time, and making sure you’re using yours in the best way for your business. Many start-ups choose to keep running their social media account internally, and organising online advertising for example. But there will come a time for this and many other more specialist or time-intensive activities, hiring external support is likely to be worth the investment.
Where do you need expert help?
Experts don’t have to be expensive and there are thousands of professional, experienced and flexible marketing freelancers out there with just the skills you’re looking for. And now it’s easier than ever to find them, with freelance marketplaces like The Work Crowd. Once you’ve decided on the areas where you need external support, simply post your job on the site and you’ll receive emails from interested and qualified professionals. The community boasts freelancers with a whole range of PR, digital marketing and social media skills, so you’re sure to find what you need, whatever your business, helping your business achieve that next phase of growth.
For more information and advice, give us a call on 0207 632 8809 or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.