Marketing Tips for Startups

John Dietrich

Avoiding costly pitfalls and time zappers.

Marketing is the simplest idea with the most difficult execution in any area of business. At its core, marketing is simply identifying and speaking to a receptive audience. But in practice, getting the attention of would be customers has ballooned this simple idea into a $600 billion dollar industry.

The difficulty for startups attempting to navigate this world lies in how complex modern day marketing has become. With Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Adwords, Social Media, Public Relations, and Traditional Media constantly evolving, it can be near impossible for the solo entrepreneur to get the most out of their time and money. We’re going to take a look at some tips for your startup that can help you avoid costly mistakes in the beginning and down the line.

Basic, No Extra Cost, Marketing

There are plenty of things an entrepreneur can do when starting out to help build a positive brand identity and the best part is, they are free of charge. One could argue these have more value than any amount of advertising spend you can come up with, but they do have their drawbacks; their benefit to growth is often slow. But if you implement these early on in your business they will be a lot easier to continue when you reach a larger scale.

Deliver on your promises

The most forgotten about aspect of marketing is consistently delivering on whatever promises you are making. If you you want people to talk about you in a positive light, ensure you are delivering, always.

Treat your customers fairly

The customer is not always right, but they are human (true at the time of publishing). What’s more important than just bending over backwards to every customer demand is treating customers fairly. This means actually taking the time to listen to customer complaints and solve them in a way that is fair to the customer. Fair to the customer, not necessarily your business.

Treat your Employees even better

If an employee is happy, they will do a better job. If you run a startup or an enterprise, your job is making sure you get the right employees and treating them well. Too many entrepreneurs hire in a state of panic and fear. They need someone because they waited too long and they are afraid they are going to waste money on an employee that takes advantage of them.

Stop being afraid and start the hiring process before you need someone. And if a customer is being unreasonable to an employee, have your employees back!

Starting Your SEO

Because you are reading this on a website, let’s assume you understand that the internet is an incredibly valuable resource. So it makes sense that your business can be found by people who are using the internet. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the key to making this work.

SEO is a long term play. You likely won’t see the results from it right away, but the earlier you adopt best practices the more likely you will see your efforts compound over time. Below are a couple of great resources for understanding SEO, but the basics are this. Search engines like google. Bing, and Yahoo! use algorithms to search the entirety of the internet, parse the information to understand what the individual websites and webpages are about, and indexing it.

The best thing you can do for your SEO is provide would be internet denizens who travel to your site a great experience. This is done through content, including images, written words, and usability of your website. The more useful your site is to someone who comes to it, the better you will be perceived to be by these search engine algorithms. The better you are perceived the more priority you will get on the search engine.

That’s truly it. There are technical pieces to help the search engines understand what they are seeing, but relevance to visitors is your first priority.

Helpful Websites:

  1. Moz — Beginner’s Guide to SEO

  2. Neil Patel — SEO Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide

  3. Google — Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide

  4. Hubspot — The Ultimate Guide to SEO in 2018

Building Your Social Media Presence

Social media is a juggernaut. But you need to understand where your audience resides and how the channels work to truly gain any use from them. Most people assume they need to be on every channel immediately but it’s incredibly time consuming to handle social media accounts on multiple channels properly.

You will likely end up on at least one social media channel, but when you are just starting out, stick to one that you are most comfortable with where people who will be buying your product likely hang out.

Your First $1,000 Spend

Now that you’ve locked down the basics, it’s time to start putting some money behind your marketing efforts. Even though we are inundated with free services for marketing, money still talks. Before you blow your budget, here’s how you can spend your first one thousand dollars in marketing.

Defining your objectives

Before you start spending any money you need to understand your marketing goals. In the beginning, goals like brand awareness are likely going to result in wasted funds. Branding takes time and time is costly. You are better off spending your marketing dollars in places where you can see a more direct return.

Know Your Audience

If you’ve started using social media, you are likely learning more about your audience. Also, if your product is starting to sell, you should be gathering information about your new customers. If you are an online store, you should be using google analytics. It will help take all that anonymous internet traffic and turn it into useful stats.

The more you know your audience the more you can target them. You’ll know what language you need to use and how to find them.

Understand Your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Daily sales, website visitors, media impressions, users, customer acquisition costs (CAC), lifetime value (LV), bounce rates, SERPs…the list goes on and on. Paying attention to everything is impossible and can raise plenty of false flags. Take the time to learn what things are most valuable to the growth and sustainability of your business. The individual KPIs will be different for every business but it’s important to have yours figured out.

A very important KPI is sales. If you aren’t tracking your sales and how those customers came to your small business, you will never understand how to most effectively use your marketing budget.

Stick to One or Two Channels

There are thousands of places who are ready and willing to take your marketing dollars and spend it. The craziest thing is they all claim they will definitely improve your business!

When you are first starting out and spending, it’s best to pick a couple channels and put money into them. If you try and spread your budget too thin, you won’t be spending enough money to learn anything useful. At the end of your budget, you’ll be no better off than when you started.

In the beginning, unless your customers are not online, digital (adwords, social media ads) is a great way to go. You have the most control over your spending and it is almost always the cheapest return on your investment.

Gather Data

Earlier we talked about analytics to gather data. If you are not digital, then you’ll need to find other ways to track how effective your spend was in bringing you customers. No matter how you do it, make sure you are doing it!

Your Next $10,000 Spend

Now you’ve really got the hang of it marketing pro! Your returns are looking good, you’ve kept your acquisition costs down, and your customers are telling everyone around about your services. It’s time to move to the next level.

Use What You Learned

Since you’ve been gathering data this whole time, you are going to know what channels have been working, which ones haven’t, where you can increase your spend, and what new areas you could be using.

Increase Spend Where Applicable

Before you add in any new channels, make sure you are maxing out the channels you have already demonstrated are working. Shiny things are fun to chase, but they are costly. Stick to what’s working and make the most out of your budget.

Try New Channels

If your increased spend hasn’t used up your budget, now it’s time to look at channels that may have originally been out of reach. The data you’ve been gathering will help you make more informed decisions about where to spend your budget.

Hire and Outsource

You are an entrepreneur and you create products. This doesn’t mean that you have to be the best at every aspect of running a business. Now that you’ve done a lot of the legwork, you can confidently hire employees or outsource work to marketing firms and public relations agencies.

When you hire or outsource work, the more information you can give the person taking over the better. Because of all your hard work, you are in a position to make this transition simple and effective. Yay you!

Hiring and outsourcing your marketing will free up your time to focus on the things you need to, like making the product better, closing deals, and captaining your ship.

Infinity and Beyond

Marketing opportunities never end. The larger you get, the more budget you have, and the more well known your brand gets, the more opportunities to spend your marketing dollars will arise. Navigating these options comes down to one simple thing. If you are lucky, you’ve identified some great marketing channels that are working well and if you are really lucky those channels have room to grow with increased spending.

Effective marketing isn’t about being everywhere, it’s about being in the right places in the most cost efficient ways possible.

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Article originally published to Medium

Written by John Dietrich