It takes a lot of effort and determination to launch your own startup and survive through the hardships of the initial stages of entrepreneurship. You need to cover your basic expenses in order to keep your business rolling, but on the other hand, you also need resources to promote and brand your product. Basically, you’re expected to spend 20-25% of your total budget on marketing during your first year, and this might be just enough for those who took a good bite of some kind of venture capital or were lucky enough to find an angel investor. But for bootstrappers with a very limited budget, this can leave their business with a fairly modest amount of money to spend on promotion. Here are some tips on how to make your marketing both efficient and affordable at the same time.
1. Narrow your audience down
The first and most important step when engaging into any kind of marketing-related activity for your startup is to get to know your customers. You have to know what demographics might be interested in buying what you’re selling in order to convince them to do it. You don’t want to waste your money on ads that will attract only the people that are not interested in your product or don’t even understand it. Use marketing automation software to collect information about your customers, use conversion tracking to see who is buying and try to carry out surveys in order to gather some important facts about potential buyers.
2. Test your strategies
With all the software and tools at your disposal in the internet era, it’s not too hard to track which online promotion actions are effective for your business and which are not. It’s important to recognize which strategies were fruitless and abandon them immediately. You can test multiple ads on multiple platforms and check which one of them had the biggest reach and influence or which one of them led to most conversions – this strategy is called “minimum viable marketing”. You basically perform trial-and-error experiments that are fairly small and cheap and after you analyze the results and put together all the relevant pieces of information you collected, you can choose the most effective promotion methods and focus your further investments on them.
3. Use social media
Once you’re familiar with your target audience and the most fruitful marketing techniques for your product, you can successfully employ social media for your promotion. Social media platforms allow you to target the audience in all sorts of very specific ways. This is a very secure way to avoid spending money on reaching people who are absolutely not interested in what you’re selling. Try to post as regularly as possible and remain visible at all times. Have in mind that social media promotion is not just about selling and conversions, but also about engagement and about branding your product, so try to build a community around your page or profile. Try to stick to a unique style that will attract people to your content and then later turn them into customers in a more natural and casual way.
4. Regular giveaways
It’s very simple – people like free stuff. Also, people are getting overwhelmed with an enormous amount of ads all the time and are not willing to spend their money just because they saw your catchy Facebook ad. After all, we see 1000-5000 advertisements per day and we’re already trained not to believe them. But if you offer people free e-coupons, samples or trials, they might just go for it and try it – in fact, 4 out of 5 shoppers regularly use various coupons. And once they know what your product is about, they can make an informed decision on whether to pay for it or not – then it’s not just another flashy ad in the vast ocean of flashy ads but it becomes something real and tangible that they could be willing to spend their money on if they like it.
5. Traditional methods
Try not to rely only on digital means of promotion – some of the more traditional methods can also do the trick, especially if your business is not exclusively online-oriented. Go for the whole assortment of marketing methods that are unjustly neglected like booklet printing, banners, flyers, leaflets, posters or business cards. You could pick the amount and quality of the material based on your resources or you could also try “piggyback marketing” – sharing promotional space (e.g. leaflets or posters) and costs with another reputable company that is not your competition.
Among other ways to cut your marketing costs is using your own website for promotion, especially if you find someone to help you with the SEO for your website. Also, you could simply put in some footwork – you should visit the venues and events related to your niche and try to meet potential customers and investors in person or, depending on the budget, you may even decide to co-sponsor such an event. Sometimes the budget is tight, but committing to your promotion is an absolute must and if you want to secure the next round of investment for your business, building a recognizable and distinguished brand is crucial.