There was a time when starting a business was looked at as a herculean challenge and scoring your first sale was the next big thing. Today, digital marketing has made it easy to start a business and making a sale within a few days is no more a challenge. In this post, I share my thoughts on how startups can grow their business with digital marketing on a bootstrap budget.
Startups are small innovative online businesses, that often follow growth hacking methods to grow exponentially in lesser time. Having a clear marketing plan helps startups communicate their unique selling point (USP) so that the audience understands the differential value of the company or product.
Startups, unless they’re funded by angel investors or venture capitalists, don’t have loads of extra cash lying around, and yet have an even more urgent need to fund a marketing budget than a Fortune 500 company with millions to spend in ad buys alone. What to do?
By building excitement around your startup and leveraging upon it, you can create an environment where you would have an edge over the competition. Instead of going all guns blazing at the competition in the eagerness to win the market share, you ought to form a digital marketing strategy that will help you discover which marketing channels to prioritize to manage your time and money. You need to think deeply about how to present your idea as exciting and ensure that you do not present your product or service as a competitor of something.
Digital marketing is a powerful tool, and can contribute powerfully to your online presence, and positively impact your bottom line. Everything you do to build your digital presence counts toward your target audience noticing your brand. Being known by your target audience will affect your bottom line. One of the most effective ways to create a strong presence is by using digital media for your marketing needs.
Bootstrap Budget Digital Marketing Techniques
Bootstrapping is a popular strategy for today’s entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses. Bootstrapping is the concept of starting a business with very little cash, spending only when you need to spend, and increasing your budgets only as it is merited. Bootstrapping, however, presents a catch-22 of sorts. Bootstrapped businesses are short on cash, and yet they have an even more urgent need to fund a marketing budget than a Fortune 500 company with millions to spend in ad buys alone.
The secret to a huge launch for your new company isn’t to outspend everyone else. Instead, get creative with your marketing and make a big splash with “out-of-the-box” thinking.
Digital marketing is one of the most flexible, high-potential areas where you can maximize a bootstrap budget. You can get the word out about your business in so many ways, without spending much.
The art of digital marketing is all about appropriately placing your product (or service) in front of the right audience at the right time. Even though this art is presumed to be “expensive”, there are low-cost strategies that are just as effective.
- Get to Know Your Customers
The core of any effective marketing plan is a thorough understanding of your target market. The better you know and understand your customers, the easier it will be to sell them what they need and want.
The more you focus on your customers’ needs, the more sales and referrals you’ll get. Therefore, taking the time to get to know your customers is a powerful bootstrap digital marketing technique.
Although you may market to a large group, think of each customer individually. Consider his or her personal needs and personalize your marketing messages and approach to address them. By making your customers feel valued, you are setting the stage for long-term relationships.
- Keyword Research
People looking for products and services online do so by typing a keyword phrase into the search engine’s search box. Keywords aren’t just about SEO. They’re the foundation of all digital marketing practices. They explain where your search traffic is coming from and determine what your company is known for. Knowing and identifying such keywords helps digital marketers and businessmen get desired results from their search engine optimization campaigns.
Once you’ve defined the niche, learn how they will find you. This is important for your SEO, social media and content strategies. Begin with a small list of keywords that define your product. Then, expand it with secondary keywords.
- Website Architecture
Way too many entrepreneurs do not take their startup websites seriously and their website planning is the weakest part of their digital marketing efforts.
Website architecture is the way you structure your website to ensure it meets your business goals while delivering a great experience for your users. Guiding people through the vast amount of information on offer is something that requires thought and research. Intuitive navigation doesn’t happen by chance. While planning the website structure, keep in mind these five things: Mobile responsiveness, Speed, Relevance, Engagement and Conversion strategy.
- Mobile Responsiveness
79 percent of total India’s internet traffic comes from Mobile and it will increase 7 fold by 2021, according to Cisco. Moreover, after Google adopting a mobile first policy, it’s something you can no longer ignore.
Page speed matters. We’ve been hearing it for years, yet many of us are guilty of letting it slide. Google, however, has been sending some serious signals lately that suggest sluggish loading is a problem you can no longer sleep on. 2019 will be the year of page speed. It’s the year when the difference between fast and slow content will become the difference between showing up in the search results (whether paid or organic) or disappearing completely.
Understanding and consideration are required to communicate well online. Websites and social media are public space where companies can create great success with the right content that can quickly reach a broad segment of potential customers and users. To be a successful online communicator, you need to create relevant content that provides value to the visitor and create engagement among users and customers.
Potential customers check out your website and your social media feeds to find out more about you. They search on Google to find articles about you and check out your competitors as well to see who is most trustworthy, who offers the best deals, have the best products or is the best to solve their problems. When potential customers search your website, they expect to find valuable and relevant content.
Creating and distributing relevant, valuable and compelling information will help you turn prospects into buyers and buyers into long-term customers and good ambassadors for you company.
User engagement is when visitors to your site appreciate your content enough to stick around, absorb, and convert.
When a visitor lands on your website, reads your homepage and then clicks-through to the other pages of your site, that’s user engagement.
The person is actively learning more about your business and offerings. The more informed the person becomes, the greater the chances that he or she will buy from you. When user engagement is high, you’ll find that your audience becomes more loyal. You’ll notice more return visits and higher conversions, because your website works. Increasing website user engagement is, thus, vitally important to your success.
- Conversion Strategy
High conversion rates mean more sales, fewer lost customers, and a greater return on advertising investment. By converting potential customers — who have already expressed some interest — you need not reach as many new prospects to generate the same volume of sales.
Learning how to increase your conversion rate isn’t difficult, but that’s the subject of another post.
- Mobile Responsiveness
- Get Social
Social Media Marketing is one of the best ways to get brand exposure and customers for your startup. It is one of the best low-cost marketing techniques to use for your business.
Since most small business owners are busy running all aspects of their businesses, they have little extra time to spend on social media. This is why it is so important to create a marketing plan, set goals for your social media activity, and learn as much as you can about each network you plan to take part in so you can reduce the learning curve and avoid wasting time.
Not only has social media become the most commonly used form of online marketing, but your customers now expect it. If your company doesn’t have a business Facebook page, for example, you could lose a lot of business to competitors who do.
You are probably well aware of social sites like Twitter and Facebook and have seen businesses using these sites to get the word out about their products and services. But social media is a lot more than just Twitter or Facebook. There are hundreds of ways you can use social media to promote your business including:
- Start a blog for your business
- Subscribe to other blogs related to your topic and comment on blog posts consistently
- Record videos for your business and upload them to a branded YouTube channel
- List your business on Google Places
- Start social bookmarking your online content
- Create a Pinterest and an Instagram account for your business that highlights your products, services or other resources.
With any social media marketing activities, make sure you take the time to outline your goals and create a plan before diving in. It may be a quick and easy medium, but you don’t want to cut corners when it comes to a well-organized, strategic approach.
- Build Your Email List
Email marketing is an economical way to stay in touch with your customers, promote your products, and boost brand recognition. It’s a long-term activity that will probably not yield instant sales, but building an email list is one business goal that every small business owner should have.
The first step is getting your visitors to sign up for an email marketing service that will allow you to easily collect email addresses, send targeted messages, and track the response. Once you have your system in place, encourage your visitors and potential customers to sign up by:
- Offering a free download in exchange for signing up
- Promising special offers and discounts to subscribers
- Launching a monthly email newsletter
- Providing exclusive tips, advice and other information to subscribers
The most important thing to remember with any email marketing campaign is that you should make it clear what people are signing up for, promise not to sell or share their email addresses, and give subscribers an easy way to unsubscribe if they decide they do not want to receive messages from you at a later time.
- Invoke excitement to increase your reach with PR campaigns
Running the whole campaign organically is not always possible. Somewhere down the line, you need to push your digital marketing strategy into a higher gear. Getting a lot of positive press coverage is always good for a startup. You can double the excitement around your brand by creating several PR campaigns. Once you get the ball rolling, you will easily see your reach expanding.
- Pump your online reputation with customer reviews
Customer reviews are the biggest driver of public relations for businesses because every second user reads online customer reviews to determine whether a local business is worth their time and money or not.
Just imagine what will happen when you bring your business in front of customers, who are ready to spend money. In addition, if you have the best reviews among the competition, you are sure to entice these customers into choosing your brand repeatedly.
- Go Grassroots
Sometimes, there is no better way to promote your business on a budget than the old fashioned way — getting out on the street and talking to people. Even if your business is primarily online, you still have a local community with other local businesses, and expanding your marketing activities to include those businesses can be a great way to build support.
Some of the most obvious ways to maximize your local community are by joining the Chamber of Commerce or other local professional organizations. Then, once you do, you want to be prepared with an effective elevator pitch and business cards before you start networking.
Here are a few other grassroots bootstrap marketing ideas to explore:
- Launch a strategic partnership with a complementary business
- Co-sponsor an event with another local business
- Use wearable marketing (shirts, hats, bags) for passive “on-the-street” promotion
Running a startup on a shoestring budget is hard enough. If you can keep marketing costs down while capitalizing on successful digital opportunities, you will improve your brands visibility without sacrificing a large budget.