How to market your startup without spending anything: a guide for beginners

According to Y Combinator, an American seed accelerator for startups, on average, the success rate of startups is as low as 0.4%. Such staggering data is indeed scary, which renders all the more important to market your idea effectively.

However, marketing in general is a revenue-guzzling activity; more so if you are a startup or new in business.

So below, we have listed some marketing ideas that don’t eye your pocket or at worst, are extremely easy on it!

1. Social Media

Without a doubt, the best way to market your business is through effective content in different social media platforms. Be it Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest or any other social media platform, good content is always liked and shared. This increases your audience and potential customer base.

It is great if you can create original content which sometimes, may get viral. Nothing beats the importance of viral content in branding your business to a wide audience.

But remember, you need to be consistent and regular in your social media activities. Try to have at least one post in your chosen social media platforms.

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If you find it not practical to create original content every time, you may like to share content on general information or updates about your industry.

Of all social media platforms, Twitter has gained much prominence. With clever and consistent strategy, Twitter can be a great way to brand your business and drive sales. Create a Twitter account for your startup and tweet relevant information related to your business, at least once daily. In fact, it is better if you can tweet every two-three hours.

Remember, your tweets should not be only about sales; there should be generic interesting tit-bits about your industry as well. Retweet important tweets. Actively reply to your tweets and engage with people.

Apart from the free marketing, you may try the paid ads options available in different social media platforms. But first we suggest, be effectively active through the free mode.

2. Blogging

In today’s digital world, content is king. And in that context, an effective way to promote your business is by having a blog.

Post relevant and innovative topics regularly in your blog. Update it with the latest industry news.

Try to make your blog a complete media hub. Have audio and video files, podcasts, webcasts and if feasible, webinars as well.

Blogging

If any content goes viral, you will reach a huge online audience. In general, interesting videos go viral easily.

But remember, such innovative content can go waste if you don’t promote it effectively through social media. So promote your blog posts through different social media platforms.

Through your blog, engage with your readers actively and develop a community. This helps immensely in branding your business.

An interesting offshoot of blogging is that it improves the SEO of your website. Since your blog is linked to your website, more people coming to your blog effectively means more traffic to your website.

Essentially, blog can build trust for your business and position you as an industry expert. The more you can demonstrate your expertise and knowledge about your business domain, the more will people try your product or service.

3. Guest Blogging

In simple words, guest blogging is about link building. Or in other words, bringing traffic from different websites to your site.

However, according to a recent post by Matt Cutts from Google Webspam team, guest blogging is no longer valuable to drive traffic. The reason is that Google has found the practice spamming.

But remember, if your content is original and you choose good websites, guest blogging can still be used to drive quality traffic to your site. The practice is still used by many businesses.

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Do research sites that are related to your business and have high traffic as well. Offer to guest blog for them.

Join guest blogging communities like MyBlogGuest to interact with other bloggers in your industry, find more useful guest blogging opportunities and in general, get information and updates about your industry.

4. Question-and-Answer Websites and Internet Marketing Forums

There is a worldwide community online who interacts with each other in different question-and-answer sites (Yahoo! Answers, Answers.com, Askville, Quoraspring.me, Answerbag, All Experts, etc) and marketing forums. The Internet is full of marketing forums of every conceivable business or product.

We suggest you do a Google search and research question-and-answer sites and forums that have most of your target audience.

Q&A

In question-and-answer sites, answer questions related to your business and industry and post your own doubts as well. While in marketing forums, join the threads or create your own thread.

Be regular in the sites and forums and interact actively. You should try to become a reliable source of industry information and create a good list of followers, both in the question-and-answer sites and marketing forums.

5. Post Ads in Free Sites

There are many websites which allows you to post ads for free like Craigslist, MerchantCircle.com,  Local.com, Gumtree, etc.

Explore such websites for your business.

Post-Ads

6. Host High-Profile Interviews, Live Chats or Twitter Parties

Can you manage an interview with a prominent personality in your industry? If yes, then you can have it in your blog. Traffic for such searches is high; so it can be a good way to bring users’ notice to your business.

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Decide on an interesting topic related to your business or industry and start a Twitter party. Or, you can have  a live chat discussion where users can consult with experts.

Either way, the whole idea is to engage the audience with each other, while at the same time build trust for your brand.

7. Free Offers, Discounts and Coupons

It is always a good business strategy to give free trials or ‘try before you buy’ offers, discounts or coupons to your audience. So if feasible with your business plan, then do it for a limited period.

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In the process, you will collect the contact details of many potential buyers. Even if the users’ opt out of your product or service after the discounts or free trials, you can pitch them later.

8. Press Media Exposure

Do press releases and try to find some space in the media. Nothing is more relevant for effective branding than a good press for your product or service.

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9. Contests and Local Events

Try to associate with local events where you can display your product or service and generate public buzz.

Alternatively, you can hold different contests, both offline and online, and offer the winners discounts or coupons to use your product or service.

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Either way, the motive is to bring the audience closer to your business.

10. Customer Feedback Loop

Essentially, customer feedback loop refers to the gathering of feedback from different sections of the targeted audience through various means, and then using the information to better the products/services offered.

Providing excellent customer service is an excellent marketing strategy to spread news about your business by word-of-mouth and customer testimonials.

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Interact with customers at every opportunity in your website. Have interactive chat and on-site survey feedback on select pages like category or sale.  Promptly respond to any user who has interacted with you.

On-site survey feedback, for both fresh leads and existing customers, should contain only relevant questions and should not take more than 2 minutes to complete.

Don’t shy away from negative feedback. It is even more important to interact with such aggrieved customers. If feasible, try to compensate them.

If customers don’t participate in your on-site survey feedback, proactively encourage them to give you their reviews or testimonials for your products or services. This will help you to plug the loopholes in your business, if any, and enhance the customer experience.

Note, according to a report by McKinsey, 20-50% of all purchasing decisions are driven by testimonials.

So select some of the positive feedback and include them in your testimonials page. Try to include photos of the customers who gave you the positive feedback. You may add a couple of bad reviews as well. This will add to the credibility of the good testimonials.

Conclusion

For a startup with limited resources, it is a challenge to work on your business and marketing simultaneously. We suggest you use some or all the ideas mentioned above to popularise your business effectively.

Do you think there are more ways to market a startup? Let’s start a discussion!

First published: YourStory, Oct 2014

 

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