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Digital marketing with no budget

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 15 Apr, 2013
Essential Essential topic

A case study of marketing for start-ups with low/no budgets

In our current and future enterprises, we all have the duty and obligation to generate new customers for our services or products. To maintain our dream and vision, unfortunately, despite being an absolute truth, the main barrier for start-up companies is the lack of capital for investment. Case studies of how Nike, Sony and McDonalds invest in brand marketing isn't too relevant - although you are also aiming to build your brand! However, facing this financial limitation, we can use online marketing in our favour to take the first steps in overcoming the investment barrier.

Here are some ideas based on our experience of creating an online presence on a shoestring budget.

1. Initial contact to start building contacts

Building initial contacts on an email list is what our initial success was based on. These were our 'Early adopters.' To begin with, we do not need to invest in online or offline publicity.

As a start-up, the absolute priority we need to be aware of is to know if our product or service is the right one, if it fulfills its clients’ necessity or if it needs some other modification or improvement so that it really becomes the solution to your problems.

For example, ShortStack is an application that allows any user to implement applications on Facebook without the need to know how to program. This start-up began months ago and today it has an annual turnover of over 3 million dollars, and its marketing strategy was just, and nothing else but point number 1.

What was their secret? They first started contacting clients via e-mail (email marketing using MailChimp for free to start with) and social networks (especially Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn). They asked their first users to give some feedback on how to improve the tool, in return for the application for free. The rest is history and today they have more than 300,000 clients.

Some takeaways for E-Mail Marketing that we have learned over the years with our Startup include: move somewhere else?

  • Keep it simple. Do not use images (email user have to enable them to see it)
  • Go straight to the point (do not waste people's time)
  • Show benefits not features (what is in there for them?)
  • The shorter the better
  • One email, one objective.

2. Social Media Promotion / Viral offers through Advocacy

Closely following option 1 is the using social media sharing from our first current customers/users, despite how few they may be. For example, startup companies that sell luxury articles use social networks, especially Pinterest and Instagram to provide offers through their excellent images to those who share, like or subscribe to their online images.

This visual channel is the key to generate and raise sales of those products in which the image means everything.

Famous companies of discount coupons such as Groupon are a clear example of how they use social networks and the marketing power that lies in them, as a mean of publicity to attract new customers, offering credits to their current users that are able to bring a friend, a relative or an acquaintance and consume the daily deal.

It is clear that this referral is correctly tracked down to know its origin. A good tool for us entrepreneurs to go ahead with this and not just the internet giants may be Sendible or Sprinklr.  

3. Local Marketing

To proceed, only if our work is already under way and working properly, which can be assessed by carrying out an evaluation with the first users, we should move forward and start contacting local media and bloggers in our field of interest (in a vertically integrated manner).

Using Big media companies to promote isn't practical. The possibilities that they offer are almost nonexistent, as this kind of media have millions of requests per day, and, what is more, nowadays it is not certain whether our group of interest is consuming those media.

Instead start with local blogs and in our vertical action, using Facebook, Twitter, e-mail accounts and a Web site. This can take time, but as entrepreneurs it is necessary to dedicate our time and effort to grow, since the capital needed may, unfortunately, be beyond our reach until we begin to grow considerably.

As time passes, we will be able to contact bigger media and to issue notes and Press Releases that reach a greater number of people. At this point, an essential tip to have in mind is that we should try to tell a story.

Journalists are not just seeking products or services with some benefits; what they want is successful stories, great experiences, with failures and mistakes, but with a happy ending in which  the goal is reached by perseverance. That is the current landscape, so we should try to understand it and tell our entrepreneurship story to gain more exposure and, thus, more customers.

Some PR tricks we have learnt over the years

  • If you want them to write about your company, ask for it, don't waste your time and theirs.
  • Try to have something to offer, in Argentina and Brazil, we offer gift cards and special discounts for their readers.
  • If you can share your entrepreneurship story, is much better than sharing some tools features.
  • Keep it short, Journalists receive hundreds of Press Releases daily. You only need to share two things: 1. What is the benefit for the user and 2. Your website URL.

4. SEO Implementation

Another opportunity of excellent effectiveness but more focused on the long term is the adaptation of our online sales website to SEO (Search Engine Optimization), this means that our business venture be compatible with search engines such as Google, Bing or Yahoo.
These search engines are used by our potential new clients today, and in the future to search for new things amongst which our service can appear. For this to develop successfully, we should have it in mind since the first day. For example, despite the fact that it is very, very beautiful, flash technology is not 100% compatible with search engines. It is always recommended to use text. Yes, text.

One actionable SEO internal tip for your Startup that you can start using right now from the beginning is learning about choosing the best Keywords for your website and how you can use them.

How AirbnB in London maximise SEO keywords

AirBnB in London use the Keyword 'London'. It is included in their website url and their links between related pages. airbnblondon From its innovative architecture to its powerful financial centers and culturally diverse population, all eyes are on London when this influential city takes the stage. It is always about the keyword London.The main objective in the future is for when someone searches online about: 'rent in London' or 'places to stay in London', this website would show up organically generating more customers for AirBnB.

In Summary Internet Marketing for Startups

Of the tips above, this last one is the only one to produce long term results. We will not see results overnight, but we will in the long term. The first is the best one in the short term and the the second and third are the best for a mid-term publicity strategy for our start-up and for the success to generate new clients.

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