So I’ve been MIA on my blog for a little while…but that’s because I have been working for a startup and running their blog. I have learned a lot about marketing for early stage bootstrapped startups in this time, and want to express my views on it.
Regardless of whether you have a budget or not, you need to establish your brand. It is not always necessary for your name and logo to reflect what you do on some level, many have been successful without doing this (i.e. Kayak, Apple), but it certainly helps get your message across. A brand is like a person, you need to understand its personality, what it stands for, what is at the brands core. Your brand needs to be differentiated, relevant, and sustainable. I think I’ll write another blog about this later on because its a lot of information…
Okay, so with no budget towards marketing, how are you going to let people know you exist and get them to use/buy your product? Here are a few suggestions:
SEO – I’m by no means an SEO expert, but I understand its importance. It is not a magical formula that you can implement and get to the top of every Google search. It takes time and strategy, and I would recommend having someone on your team that is an expert, or learning to become an expert.
Business development – The specifics of biz dev are highly reliant upon what your startup is selling, and if you are b2c or b2b. However, one suggestion for this in the beginning is to work with different blogs relevant to your product/service, and get them to link to your site. If you are an e-commerce site you can simply offer them a commission for traffic they refer to your site. Regardless, you need to find a way to add value to the other party. You probably do not have much value in the way of posting a link to them on your site at this point….so you need to think of something else. I’m happy to provide suggestions on this. Once you have some users you can go after the larger media outlets.
Social Media – As soon as you have a name and a website, I recommend getting your Facebook page up. Twitter can come a little later on, you need to have a little more time for Twitter. Notice how I haven’t mentioned other social networks – unless you have a full time Community Manager at this point, I wouldn’t worry about it. Each social network takes time to build, and they will feed off of each other and your finished product. Spend the time to set up your Facebook page to make sure it looks nice and professional…then invite everyone you know, and everyone that your team knows. I only recommend posting twice or less per day, and if you can post even a few times a week you are golden. When you have a few hours a week to dedicate, I’d start on Twitter as well. I think this is another opportunity for a whole other blog post because this one will just get too long if I get into this. The most important thing here is that you don’t just have a Facebook/Twitter page for the hell of it – you need to have a goal in mind. Do you want to build awareness, drive traffic/users to your site, engage current users?
Blog – This is similar to social media, what are you going to accomplish with this? I recommend having a close link to your site, or even having it on your site. You can use this for SEO purposes to drive site traffic, while simultaneously explaining what is going on with your business. When you write blog posts, post it on your social media (both professional, and even personal), and you can answer questions on sites such as Quora with your blog post to drive small amounts of traffic over time.
Events/Demos – The startup I have been working for participated in NY Tech Day. This was basically a huge science fair of about 150 startups in a room pitching their idea all day to investors, press, consumers, and other startups. For a startup that is pre-launch, there is limited marketing value to an event like this, it can actually be more valuable for meeting investors. However, if your site is up – I’d go to town – get as many news users that day as you can. You can even have inexpensive giveaways for people that sign up on the spot for the site…maybe an item from your site? These events can cost a little $…but if you can swing it, I recommend it. It gets you great exposure and you are engaging people on a completely different level than any of the previously mentioned tactics. Do you have a Tech Meetup in town? NYTM is great for newly launched startups to present how their site works in about five minutes to 1000 engaged parties. The people that attend these events are early adopters, press, work for tech startups, influencers, students, etc. If these people like your product – they will each tell x number of friends and word of mouth carries on… I found a couple of really cool startups that I use at this event, including Songza and Unroll.me.
Once you get a little money, you can start testing different paid media. Some examples include Facebook/social media, CPC ad networks, Google AdWords, inexpensive event sponsorship, handing out fliers/swag, possibly Internet radio (but this would again require another blog post), group buying sites, etc.
Every business is different, and some of the suggested items might be more efficient for different types of businesses. As of the time of this blog post, I have the capacity to do freelance work and could provide a more in depth consultation if you email me at email@example.com. If you don’t need that, feel free to comment/subscribe:)
More blog posts to come!