Marketing can supercharge your growth, but it can also blow your budget. Complex strategies demand large budgets and long timelines, putting them out of reach for most startups.
But startups are scrappy: Creative ones can turn marketing strategies that might not get a second look at enterprise companies into low-cost lead machines. In terms of time, money, and manpower, slimmer strategies can deliver similar or even greater value.
If your company simply can’t afford to market itself like a major enterprise, here are four ways to build your brand at minimal cost:
1. Win them over with organic content.
You’ve almost certainly been told that your company needs a blog. But that’s just the beginning of an organic content strategy. To be effective, your on-site content needs:
- A focus on SEO: Use a free keyword tool like Google Keyword Planner to learn which search terms customers might associate with you. Incorporate those throughout your blog content, keeping in mind that quality is key. Earn links from authoritative sources, such as .gov and .edu sites, and make sure you add a meta description to every content asset.
- A focus on education: Especially if you’re trying to get high-authority sites to link to yours, don’t use your blog to make sales pitches. Create in-depth content that provides genuine value to readers.
- A focus on evergreen content: Although timely content can get clicks, blog content should be relevant now and into the future. Update posts with timely elements regularly to keep them current.
A content-heavy strategy is a smart choice for startups in industries that are regulated or new to consumers. B2B agency Hawke Media suggests it for CBD marketing: Before they buy in, customers want to know things like whether CBD is legal, how it differs from THC, and how to dose CBD.
2. Spread the word on social media.
Word-of-mouth and social media marketing are natural allies. Social media accounts are free to set up, free to operate, and free of major learning curves. And because they’re popular, they can be used to spread the word with a huge range of audiences: As of early 2019, 72% of U.S. adults use at least one social media platform.
Beware, though, that posting and interacting with other users is a bigger time commitment than many marketers realize. The key to this strategy is using only the platforms that are relevant to your brand. There are dozens of smaller ones to consider as well, but the sites most startups care about are:
- Facebook is a large platform with a diverse audience, but it’s most popular among older adults. It’s ideal for posting company news, building brand awareness, and providing customer service.
- Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat are perfect for businesses that offer very visual products and cater to younger audiences.
- Twitter is great for sharing short, text-based updates. Its users tend to be younger, more educated, and more international than those of other popular platforms.
Start with a single platform. If you can commit the time to it and see opportunity on another platform, invest in it. Half-complete or inactive accounts look worse than none at all.
3. Earn a following through email.
If there’s one online communication channel that’s technically bigger than social media, it’s email. It’s estimated that just shy of 4 billion people used email in 2019. That’s more than one out of every two people alive.
To know whether an email-centric strategy makes sense for your startup, think about your goals. Social media is great for brand awareness, but email is best used to deepen relationships with existing customers. B2B startups and others with long sales cycles are good candidates.
4. Create credibility through directory listings.
Customers know they have options, but they don’t always know what those options are. Industry directories clue them in to the top companies in the space.
Start by filling out your Google My Business listing, which allows you to manage your brand’s presence across Google’s search engine, Google Maps, YouTube, and other tools. It’s free, and once it’s filled out, it requires very little maintenance.
Check, too, for industry-specific directories. In marketing, Agency Match helps brands find vetted providers in everything from experiential to social media marketing. Similar directories exist in almost any industry you could come up with, and they provide third-party credibility that’s tough to create elsewhere.
Your startup may have little more than a shoestring marketing budget, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting your name out there. Pick a primary strategy, and mix in tactics from others as your budget allows. Stick with it, and you might be surprised just how successful a simple strategy can be.