Linda Jenkins, May 14 2017
You've launched your startup. You believe in your product and in your team. You think you've got a chance at being one of the few startups that survives over the long haul, if only you could get your company in front of consumers. Rather than waste your time trying to get a tech journalist to write about your startup (do your target customers even read tech blogs?), you're much better off being innovative with your approach to marketing. You can grow interest in your startup, increase your social media following, and connect with customers if you're willing to think outside the proverbial box.
Marketing your startup doesn't have to mean hiring expensive media firms or selling your soul for a mention in a major publication. You don't need to feel like a street walker flashing your wares at journalists and tech bloggers; you can take control of your marketing, save your pride, and build a following for your startup at the same time. If you want to know how to market your startup for under $100, check out these 10 tips for startup founders:
- Create a professional email signature. This is an easy way to brand your company. You never know where your connections may lead. Creating a professional email signature is like passing out your business card to everyone you contact.
- Respond to relevant queries for the hashtag #journorequest on Twitter. Use Twitter's advance search + "all of these words" to find requests specific to your market sector. You'll be amazed at the number of journalists/writers looking for assistance in your startup's niche.
- Participate in Twitter chats relevant to your business sector. Not only does this help improve your SEO (Google is now indexing tweets), but it also helps connect you directly with potential customers for your startup. Can you say #winning?
- Answer questions on forums from individuals discussing your startup's sector. Tools like BoardReader.com can help you search through a variety of forums by topic for relevant conversations.
- Create a podcast to share knowledge with potential customers. There are a number of mobile apps now available that can help you create a podcast for free. You can even create a mini-podcast using an app like PodBean .
- Write posts on LinkedIn Pulse specific to your target customer. Don't waste your time trying to compete with big names in the tech industry or so-called "influencers." Post helpful content to attract users to your startup and you'll find your customer acquisition journey a heck of a lot easier.
- Give back to your favorite local businesses by leaving them positive reviews on sites like Yelp. You're helping improve their SEO (positive reviews can now significantly impact SEO) while providing an introduction to your startup at the same time. Not only will the business owner see your company's name/tagline in your review, so will other customers reading your review.
- Start offering a newsletter with links to content which potential customers will find especially helpful. You can use tools like Mailchimp or GoodBits.io to create a newsletter for free. Once your subscriber list builds, you'll only pay a small monthly fee if you have more than 2,000 subscribers. You're offering links to help the type of customers your startup is trying to attract, and you're building a powerful email list too.
- Host live-streamed conversations and interview individuals relevant to your startup sector. Think from your customers' perspective about who they would like to learn more about. While interviewing a "thought leader" might temporarily boost your engagement numbers, will that engagement turn into paying customers for your startup? Interview subjects your customers will find valuable and you'll be well on your way toward building brand authority for your startup.
- Scour sites like Meetup.com for local gatherings specific to your target customer. Attend local meetings wearing your startup's jacket or T-shirt (make sure your URL is displayed on the back of your apparel). Be of value to those attending the gathering without spamming them regarding your company and you're likely to see visits to your startup's website spike. Remember, the key is to be of value!
Startup marketing doesn't have to be expensive. If you're willing to be creative with your approach, you can connect with consumers in a variety of ways. Your focus needs to be on connecting with potential customers and not chasing coverage by publications your target user probably doesn't even read. Are you going to use any of these tips to help more customers discover your startup?
Linda Jenkins, June 08 2016
The internet allows small businesses to compete with their larger counterparts on an even playing field, but marketing can get expensive, even if you're only focusing your efforts online. Paying for ads and SEO can take a toll on your business. With that said, there are still plenty of marketing strategies out there that won't cost you too much, and can be very effective. Here are some low-cost marketing strategies that can help create organic traffic for your business and help you reach your audience.
Networking is something you should always be doing for yourself and on behalf of your business. Platforms like LinkedIn and Google+ make it easy to network with people. Ideally, you should be networking with everyone you've ever talked to, but it's perfectly fine to focus on people who are relevant in your niche.
You can also create communities or pages on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. Networking is great because you can do it everywhere, online or offline. Network with anyone you meet by explaining what you do and how your company can help them. Influencers in particular are the type of people you should be focusing on. Influencers are personalities with large, loyal followings on social media, or within your own local community. Networking with these personalities can grant a significant boon to your business' popularity.
Display more reviews and testimonials
Asking for reviews and testimonials are an easy, affordable way to promote your brand. Customers are more likely to buy your product or service if you have a good reputation. Don't be afraid to ask your customers for reviews and don't be afraid to ask them to tell their friends about your business or product. Positive reviews can help alleviate the doubts that prospective customers might feel. Reviews and testimonials can help convince people of your business' legitimacy. Asking for reviews basically means that your customers are doing the marketing for you. You should ideally be asking customers to leave reviews on websites like Yelp or Facebook, but really any positive comment on a social media platform can still help.
The best reviews should be displayed on your website, particularly on its landing or product sales pages.
Find a partnership
The idea of partnerships has been around forever. Businesses have always worked together to forward their own ends. Online, you can even consider starting an affiliate marketing program as a form of partnership. Finding partners online shouldn't be too hard, especially if you've already done a bit of networking.
Partnerships allow you to tap into the customer bases of other businesses. People are more likely to listen to businesses they already trust. You can easily use this to your advantage in a partnership. When looking for the right partner, remember to find a business you can form a symbiotic relationship with. Remember to choose a partner that isn't your direct competitor.
Videos are consumed everywhere from YouTube to Facebook. Videos are the solution to small businesses that have trouble getting found. Just having a video on your site can boost your SEO by a significant margin. Producing a video can cost you anything from $50 to $500 or more, but the traffic that it will bring to your site can't be underestimated. If you are on a tight budget consider using screencasts instead. You can easily produce your own screencast recordings for online tutorials using screencast-o-matic.com, a free program you can use from your browser. Customers are more likely to relate to your product or cause if they see a video on your site explaining what you're all about. The best thing about marketing with videos is that you don't need a ton of them. One or two good explainer videos can be enough.
List your business on directories
If you have a physical location, make sure to list your business on directories like Google Maps, Facebook, Bing, Manta, Yelp, or Yahoo. Having a presence on online directories helps customers find where you are in a jiff. Doing this can also help a bit with SEO, as customers are automatically directed to your website and physical location, if they are in the immediate area.
Learning how to properly spend resources on marketing efforts is one of the most important things that an entrepreneur should know. Study your options and take the time to learn what marketing approach works best for your business and audience.
Linda Jenkins, April 06 2016
Are you an entrepreneur attempting to grow your small business or startup company on a limited budget? Are you in need of growth resources and want to incorporate the lean startup methodology into your business development plans? There are a number of free tools you can use to help grow your company without increasing your operating capital burn rate. Following are five fabulously free tools every cost-conscious entrepreneur should have on their resource list:
Bootstrap Zero is a terrific tool to have on your list of must-use resources. This nifty site offers hundreds of free bootstrap templates and themes. Find everything from landing page templates to blog templates.
Free Invoice Generator
If you can't afford fancy accounting software for your company just yet, consider using Free Invoice Generator until your revenue projections are sustainable. Include everything from taxes and shipping costs on a custom invoice for your company. You can even offer clients invoices in your currency of choice.
If you are in startup mode and can't afford professional photographers or expensive graphics for your website or mobile applications, StockSnap is a handy resource to discover. Free images are added to StockSnap on a regular basis, with no attribution required whenever you use their images. Find background images to feature on your website, source scenic photographs to use as blog post headers, and find city landscape images to use to promote business activities in your city. The quality of the photographs on StockSnap is incredibly impressive; your images won't look like you downloaded free clipart in an effort to save money on your company's graphics.
Press Kit Generator
If your business is in the mobile application space, you can use Press Kit Generator to create a free press kit. Even if you offer a mobile app to access your company website, you can use your application URL to create a basic press kit containing screenshots, documentation, and icons.
Available from the team at 500Startups, KISS offers free legal documents for company founders. Find helpful documents on convertible notes to ensure you are protected when raising investment capital from outside investors.
Integrating free resources into your growth strategy is an intelligent way to build your brand without burning through cash. You can extend your company's runway by being smart with your available resources. Whether you are bootstrapping with your own funds, accepting investments from family and friends, or utilizing angel investments as a growth mechanism, being wasteful with funds could lead to the demise of your business. When inexpensive or free tools are at your disposal, it makes economic sense to allocate funds where the need is greatest (talent acquisition, for example) rather than spend frivolously on costly marketing tools or software packages. How many of the above-listed resources do you think you will be utilizing to grow your up-and-coming business?
Be sure to browse our free Small Business Guides
for more great tips.
Linda Jenkins, January 05 2015
Your customers are more mobile than ever before, and are using devices such as smartphones and tablets to search, browse, make reservations and buy products. To put this behavior in perspective, consider the fact that smartphone ownership has increased over 80% in the last two years. This is why you need to develop a marketing strategy that accommodates these potential customers.
How People in the US use Mobile Devices
Here are three major points that small business owners need to be aware of:
- According to The Nielsen Company, as of 2014, over 70% of the US population uses smartphones (That is nearly 172 million people).
- Over 65% of young men between the ages of 18 and 30 use smartphones for both browsing and making purchases. (Other users primarily use smartphones for browsing, but may then use a tablet or laptop to complete a purchase. Note that this will change quickly once mobile ordering processes become easier and more prevalent).
...So, if you run any type of business that targets these groups, it is essential that your website and ordering process accommodate the Mobile Web.Adapting Your Marketing Strategy
Here is a quick overview of how to most effectively target mobile users and make them your customers:
- Ensure that your website is mobile-friendly, and that your ads and graphics use responsive sizing so they look good on all types of devices.
- Regularly view your site from different devices to ensure it looks and operates as you intend.
- Keep social posts short so that they are easily read on smartphones.
- Consider adding SMS/text messaging campaigns to your marketing arsenal.
- Consider creating your own mobile app with geofencing. (If you are not sure what this means, check out this primer on Geofencing ).
- If you use a third-party payment processor, ensure that they can handle mobile payments.
- Realize that FaceBook and YouTube are the most-used Apps, according to comScore. So consider taking advantage of mobile ad opportunities on these networks.
Your potential customers will definitely use new ways to shop via the Mobile Web in 2015 and beyond, so be sure to keep abreast of these changes. Signup for our newsletter below to receive monthly business improvement tips.
Linda Jenkins, April 19 2014
Are you searching for growth marketing tools to help build your business? Do you like to be the first business owner in your area to discover invaluable resources? Entrepreneurs are launching SaaS (software as a service) products for small business owners at a rapid pace. How many of the following fresh business growth tools can you put to use for your company?
Geckoboard lets you monitor multiple facets of your business. You can track specifics such as returning customers, average transaction, conversion rates, and social media interactions. Geckoboard integrates with multiple services including MailChimp, Salesforce, Google Analytics, and BaseCamp. Geckoboard is thorough enough to handle your data as a small business, yet completely scalable should your business grow. Do not jump into Geckoboard when you are feeling rushed and short of time. The sheer volume of tools at your disposal with Geckoboard will have you clicking and reading for hours. See geckoboard.com.
If expanding to a second location is part of your growth plans, PiinPoint is definitely worth discovering. PiinPoint provides business owners with numerous data points to discover appropriate locations for secondary expansion opportunities. You can use PiinPoint to create expansion forecasts, data visualizations, and competitive analysis reports. You can track success factors for your current location while monitoring multiple potential secondary locations at the same time. See piinpoint.com.
These are just some of many online tools available to small business owners. Discovering new business growth resources before others in your niche can have a huge impact on your bottom line if you effectively put these tools to work. Knowing a resource exists and integrating it into your growth strategy are two very different concepts. An intelligent business owner discovers new tools. A wise business owner puts those resources into action.
Linda Jenkins, April 10 2014
Looking for creative ways to find more customers? Knowing how to promote your business is critical to its success. After all, a business does not succeed by creating great products—it succeeds by selling great products. Here are some common marketing strategies that have proven successful for many business owners:
Try these other effective marketing strategies:
Start Your Own Affiliate Program
Imagine having an army of helpers all advertising your business for you, and they only expect a monetary reward when they refer a sale. That is the beauty of running your own affiliate program. In our opinion, this is the most cost effective way to market any business with an online presence. Merchants using this strategy report a return on investment of $10 for every $1 invested, or better! Having your own affiliate program also solves the online marketing problem of needing backlinks, since your affiliates will naturally link to your site to promote it. Once you have a product or service with proven sales, it pays to use this method. Learn more about how LeadDyno works (the affiliate tracking software we use) for an easy solution with all the built-in tools you will ever need.
Create and Optimize Your Business Website
Many people find the prospect of creating a website intimidating, but with today’s tools, almost anyone can create a respectable website in minutes. We highly recommend using Shopify, the web platform this site is built on. Shopify can help you create your own business website with built-in ecommerce platforms so you can sell products online. Read more about why we think you should be Using Shopify for Your Online Store.
Already have a website, but not getting enough natural traffic? Whether you launched your site yesterday, or have an ecommerce site that has been online for years, it may not be optimized for maximum traffic. Make sure you use these optimization tools so potential customers have the best chance at finding your site:
- One of the most important criteria for getting natural traffic is a fast-loading site. Test how fast key pages are loading with Google PageSpeed Insights and get tips for improving load time.
Maintiaining a search engine-friendly and error-free site is important to your ability to rank high for keywords and phrases. Use Screaming Frog software to search for broken links, errors, duplicate pages, missing tags and many other problems that could be holding you back.
- Are you using http or https? Search engines are giving preference to encrypted sites since they are generally safer for website visitors. Once you switch to https, be sure to test your site using JitBit to avoid undetected security errors.
- Is your site following Google’s guidelines? If not, you could get a penalty or risk having your site removed from the search engine. Use Varvy to test for compliance with Google.
- What keywords does your site rank for? Are you gaining or losing ground? What keywords are your competitors using? Use SEMrush to test for SEO competitive data.
One of the most cost effective ways to drive converting traffic to your website or other offer is through video marketing. Whether you post to YouTube or produce your own independent videos, search engines love this content, and so do visitors. In fact, major retailers state that 90% of visitors find viewing video helpful to their buying decisions.
More than 30 percent of people use social media at work, and many more use social media during leisure time. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social networking sites are an excellent means of promoting your business, but to be successful, you should develop a social media strategy.
Posting on social networks is a science as well as an art. Studies show that each network is most popular during a particular time frame. It’s best to post on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest from one in the afternoon until three or four PST, while Google+ is most popular both in the morning beginning at nine am and in the early evening beginning at six pm.
Facebook has made many helpful metrics public. Facebook claims that posts containing pictures, videos or photo albums receive between 100 percent and 180 percent more engagement than posts that contain nothing more than words. If you’re going to create posts that contain pure text, they’ll be most effective if they’re between 100 and 250 characters—text posts that fit these parameters receive 60 percent more likes, shares, and comments. View these Facebook advertising success stories for inspiration on using this type of marketing.
Of course, there are many social networks that are less well known than Facebook and Twitter. Take advantage of these—it’s often easier to garner attention on newer and less-established sites. For example, Vine is a popular service that many companies have yet to utilize in their marketing efforts. It offers users the chance to make, post and view six-second videos using a cellular phone. Instagram, another popular network, offers more than 100 million users the chance to make and view videos of up to 15 seconds. Instagram also allows users to post and view square-shaped photos.
Because there are so many different social networks, some small business owners use social media management tools. These tools allow you to manage Facebook, Google+, Twitter and other sites from within a single place—allowing you to log in only once before posting to each network. Buffer, for example, allows you to schedule posts to appear on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and App.net accounts from its website at Buffer.com.
Coupon marketing can offer an excellent value for the money. For example, Valpak claims that 90 percent of those who receive its mailings look at its coupons, and that its users have higher than average incomes. Valpak also offers cellphone apps that allow potential customers to access ads from a cellphone or tablet. Some of its customers have even signed up to receive SMS text messages, offering businesses another avenue for advertisers.
A number of firms specialize in providing business owners with lists of potential customers. Experian, which is perhaps better known for providing credit scores, also offers small businesses lists of potential business leads. Leads provided by Experian are custom-tailored for your business and are based on the profile of your current customers.
USAData and D&B (sometimes known as Dunn & Bradstreet) also provide sales leads for small businesses. They maintain lists of potential customers together with detailed information about each potential customer. For example, you can sort through potential leads by gender, ethnicity, and whether the lead owns or rents his home. If you’re interested in selling to other businesses, you can select businesses that have a certain number of employees or a particular sales volume.
Small businesses have used mail to promote their products for decades, and with reason: direct mail works. It’s easy to ignore an online ad, but when a letter comes in the mail, many people feel compelled to open it. Some businesses create direct mailing campaigns using websites that provide beginning-to-end direct mailing services. These services are remarkably fast and efficient: some can create and mail up to 1 million pieces in as little as five to eight days! Some direct mail companies provide everything from an address list to printing, addressing and mailing services.
You can use numerous techniques to increase your success rate. For example, hand-addressed letters are opened more often than those with printed addresses. For this reason, there are even companies that will address thousands of envelopes by hand! To learn more about effective direct mail ads, check out Thankbot.
In the internet era, it’s easy to make the mistake of overlooking telephone directories like the Yellow Pages. However, many people still rely on the humble telephone book. Note that this method can be pricy in a big city—it can cost tens of thousands of dollars to take out an ad in the Yellow pages in a large city, though it can cost only a few hundred dollars in a smaller area. You can also list your business in the online version at yp.com.
Marketing Your Small Business Locally...
In an age where local newspaper advertising is becoming less and less effective, it can seem impossible to market your small business without spending a fortune for one new customer. Local business marketing has not disappeared; it has simply changed. Small business owners who can keep up with the changes will be successful. Not only has it become more cost effective to reach your customers locally, it is also much easier than you make think. To get you started on the path to small business marketing success, here are three ways to market your business locally:
Create a Google My Business Listing
When in need, your customers are searching Google for the answers. Make sure your business shows up as one of the first local businesses that can satisfy their needs. Create a listing for your small business by visiting My Business. You’ll be asked to input information about your small business like address, phone number and website. Once you have your listing up and running, your customers will be able to quickly and easily find you online.
Build Partnerships with Complementary Businesses
Referrals are what drive small business. By building a partnership with other complementary businesses in your area, you’ll be able to double or triple your marketing efforts without any extra work. Start by contacting three to five other local businesses and offer to cross-promote their business if they do the same for you. This could be as simple as setting a stack of business cards at your checkout counter. If you really want this to be a successful relationship, create a special promotion for business and share it on the business card. Even though this will be additional work upfront, you’ll be able to recognize when a referral customer comes into your store.
Join a Local Business Networking Group
Networking is fundamental to your success as a local business owner. There is nothing more important than connecting with other small business owners in your area. Not only will you be able to share ideas, but you’ll also be able to form relationships and alliances. Who knows when you might need to know a printing company in your area or a florist down the street! Many towns have a local Chamber of Commerce, which could be a great place to start your networking. Call your local organization and ask to sit in on a meeting before you decide to become a member. Take note of the other businesses that are members and the meeting agenda. Note that local country clubs and athletic clubs are also a great social source for meeting and networking with local business owners.
Be sure to also read our post on Mobile Marketing for more tips.
After you’ve checked these marketing ideas off your list, don’t stop. Move onto conquering other ways to market your small business.