Marketing is one of the most common challenges that start-ups face. Once you’ve set up your company and you’re ready to enter the market, you have to figure out how to spread the word. After all, the best idea in the world is no good if nobody else knows about it. Traditional methods of advertising through television, billboards and even listings in the newspaper are not only too expensive to be realistic options for most small businesses – they’re also becoming considered out-dated ways of attracting customers. To help you explore other options, I’ve put together some ideas for alternative ways to market your start-up company.
Television adverts and street posters are fast being overtaken by the new mainstream means of marketing – social media. Between Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat – to name but a few – there’s a platform for every business. And it’s a particularly useful tool for technology or online businesses, because your target audience is already on the web.
When deciding how to manage your social media pages, think about the best channels to reach your target audience; if you’re aimed at teens, you’ll get further with Twitter than with LinkedIn. And don’t be afraid to try out new channels – Snapchat is just emerging as a major tool for businesses and getting your company’s account set up is a great way to stay ahead of the curve and get creative with your advertising.
It’s an oldie but a goodie: word of mouth. Get your friends and family talking and ask them to spread the word. Put your message out in your local community, and find ways to generate organic interest. You could host events in your nearby hangouts, put up posters and put out newspaper ads or hand out flyers somewhere you’re likely to find potential customers. This method allows you to add the personal touch to your advertising, as you can meet your customers and explain your brand directly. It also gives you the opportunity to gain real-time feedback from your new and potential clients.
Pick your places and your spokespeople based on your target audience. If you’re starting a child-orientated company, find out if you can leave some cards at your local preschool. If you’re creating a window cleaning business, you might find that your best option is simply to go door to door. Remember to be prepared and have professional-looking business cards or posters, as well as a rehearsed speech.
Host a Launch Event
Nothing gets people talking quite like a well-planned (and well-executed) party. Start your business off with a bang by hosting your very own launch event. Make sure to invite members of your target audience – preferably people with a wide network who will be able to spread the word – as well as members of the press. Bloggers are a great group to target, as they often have a dedicated following with a shared interest and are keen to know about the next big thing on the block.
You can choose to organise and plan your event yourself, or you can enlist the help of a public relations agency or an experienced contractor. Whichever option you go for, you’ll need to make sure your event is one to remember. Think about all the details – from the invites to the food to the theme – and make sure the party is well suited to your target audience and your brand personality. Remember to take plenty of pictures that can be shared on social media (and encourage your guests to do the same).
One big advantage of operating a small business is that you have a lot of creative freedom – and marketing is a great place to put that to good use. While immersive advertising was a term traditionally used to describe a well-rounded campaign, today’s approaches have become increasingly innovative. Ideas like 3D billboards to virtual reality apps have emerged as ways to excite and engage new customers. As well as being a great way to inject personality into your advertising, it’s a sure-fire way to create a memorable campaign.
One great example of this recently has been the UK television show Humans, which is being advertised by Channel 4. The show centres around human-like robots known as Synths. Instead of opting for a traditional advert, the show has created a hyper-realistic product recall for said Synths, complete with a complementary website and social media channels. This unique marketing method encourages viewers to share in the world of the show and has certainly gotten people talking.
They do say two heads are better than one – and the same is true of marketing departments. A great way to broaden your consumer horizons is to team up with complementary companies. By partnering up with other companies with a similar customer base, you can not only reach a new audience but also pool together ideas to come up with a compelling campaign.
There are many different ways to create partnerships. You can agree on a traditional paid-for service, or you can work out a mutually beneficial deal – such as swapping email databases or each featuring on one another’s blog. You might opt to work with a company in a similar market to you, or you could go to a popular news outlet, or you might want to find a business that offers a service or product that well complements yours. The world is your oyster!
While there are many new and exciting ways to spread word about your business, there is still plenty to be said for some of the more traditional methods. The basic principles of press releases have stood the test of time, but the platforms for sharing them have changed over the years; there are far more digital outlets available today in comparison to yesterday’s print publications.
Creating a press release is a great way to get your message out and draw your customers in. It allows you greater space to explain your ethos and your story than a poster or business card, although your USP should still come through clearly. Many companies choose to work directly with journalists who have links with news outlets, although there are also online services that will help you with press release distribution.
Search Engine Optimisation
Search engines are fast becoming the most popular way for consumers to discover new brands. By boosting your brand up the search rankings for relevant terms, you’re much more likely to be spotted by new customers. Many people never get past the first page of their Google results, so the higher up you can feature the better. Of course, it’s important to make sure your website comes up on the right searches, so you need to think about what your focus keywords are.
Search engine optimisation is a wide-reaching topic with many avenues to explore, but one of the most important distinctions is between paid and organic customers. While the former come from paid-for ads listed on websites like Google, the latter are attracted through the content on your website which naturally appears in the rankings. While organic customers are harder to attract, they’re typically more loyal and higher spending customers, so it’s well worth putting in the time to figure out how to draw them in.
Word-of-mouth might not be the most efficient way to mass market, but it is still one of the most reliable (and, of course, cost efficient) methods for building up your brand’s reputation. If your customers are pleased with the service they receive, they’re much more likely to pass your company name along to their friends – and there’s a good chance they have friends with similar needs and interests.
Personal recommendations and unbiased reviews help new customers trust your business and make them more likely to buy your product or service. As well as spoken endorsements, it’s worth asking customers to leave positive reviews on popular websites and your business’ social media pages – although it’s important that they know it’s not obligatory and that they’re free to be completely honest. If you work with businesses and clients, you can ask for testimonials that you can share with potential customers.
So what do you think? Are the tried-and-tested methods the best, or should new companies be looking for new ways to market themselves? Let me know what’s worked for you in the comments below – and tell me if there are any adverts that have really caught your eye recently.