When it comes to marketing, early-stage startups suffer from a disadvantage. Unlike their larger, established counterparts, up-and-coming organizations have minimal marketing budgets. At the earliest stages of a company, funds and attention spans are devoted to product development. Marketing often takes a backseat.
Recognizing the importance of marketing, however, many business leaders are taking steps to outsmart cost constraints and to find free, organic distribution opportunities. Early-stage startups can have the best of both worlds: high-quality exposure at zero cost.
Here are three tips that explain how to achieve this goal.
Focus on new social media channels that are growing quickly
With digital marketing, the competition for audience attention spans is fierce. Companies are striving to maximize their visibility to their target customers. One way to gain a competitive edge is to market your product in a community that is growing, where user base counts and engagement levels are rising quickly although it still has limited brand presence. One of these channels is Instagram, a social network with a rapidly growing user base and advertiser offering that is still in its infancy.
Take a look at YachtHarbour.com, a database of yachts, as an example.
“We were among the first in the yachting sector and were able to get a 40,000 following not only of yacht enthusiasts and potential yacht buyers but also industry leaders, which allowed us to build our market place most efficiently,” says Dimitri Semenikhin, owner at YachtHarbour.com.
For a resource on how to grow your Instagram following, take a look at this hands-on guide from Buffer.
Reach out to niche publications
Major news outlet public relations can be tough for new companies to achieve. The reason? According to The Guardian, PR professionals outnumber journalists at a 4.6:1 ratio. If you’re trying to get in touch with a writer through email, the odds aren’t in your favor. Journalists often feel overwhelmed, with more story pitches than they can read. Most likely, you won’t even get a response back.
As the saying goes, however, ”You don’t want to be a small fish in a big pond.” So be a big fish in a small pond.
One way to get some exposure is to target publications in your niche. Rather than reaching out to outlets that attract mass-market audiences, double down on communities of professionals who are likely to buy your product.
“This can take a lot of work, but it is one of the most effective forms today that doesn’t cost tons of money,” says Alexander Reichmann, founder at security and retail products firm iTestCash. “Something I have done with my own business is to write original articles and submit them to websites in my niche.”
From a sales perspective, this tactic makes sense. Instead of sharing your story with audiences who may not be interested, focus on the individuals – and potential buyers -who will care most. As a result you’ll build a stronger rapport with them.
Create co-branded partnerships
As companies grow, so do their distribution channels. When founders are just starting out and hiring their first employees — at the seed and series A stages — distribution channels are quite limited. One way to meet this challenge is to partner up with bigger companies. Here are some examples of free techniques that will bring equal value to both parties in the relationship.
- Host a co-branded webinar. Choose a topic that you both agree on and that has relevance to both parties’ target audiences. The smaller company can offer value by doing the bulk of the content planning, while the larger company can offer a distribution channel. This partnership presents a win-win.
- Create an e-book together. The smaller company can do more of the content planning, writing, and asset creation.
- Offer free consulting to the larger company’s clients. Customer success is a major priority for almost every growing company. As a result, organizations are always looking for ways to offer perks to their customers. Why not offer another company’s customers a freebie from yours? If you want to see an example of this idea in action, just test drive a new car or visit a car rental facility. You’ll likely notice a free subscription to a satellite radio service.
This product placement is intentional — the goal is to give target audiences a trial so that they are likely to sign up for a paid subscription down the road.
If you’re an early-stage company and you’re tapping into a new social media ecosystem, reaching out to niche publications and creating co-branded partnerships, be prepared to do the bulk of the hard work. But make sure that you work intelligently. Focus on the right opportunities and offer as much value as you can to the right partners. With this level of focus and dedication, your early-stage marketing activity will deliver its strongest possible impact.