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Fast Ways To Market Your Startup

Read this article in PDF form here.

If you're just launching a micro-business, you're likely in need of effective marketing strategies that can kick in quickly and won't decimate a limited budget. 

Your options abound, but you'll be in the best position to use them if you first build an effective website, establish a social media presence, and home your communications skills.

With those tools in hand, here are the top startup marketing strategies you should consider.


Start Networking

Building a network can generate all kinds of rewards.

It was through networking, for example, that the Chicago-based startup Storymix Media was able to get featured on the local evening news, says Mike Fisher, who co-founded the company in 2011.

Storymix Media offers a video creation platform for the event market. The company can produce a wedding video from footage taken by friends and family, for instance.

“We got a lot of orders, and it gave us instant credibility,” Fisher says about the news coverage that resulted from networking.

Social networks have made it easier than ever to connect with consumers and clients. Being active on sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook can help you build relationships with swaths of people, including customers and prospects.

Through LinkedIn, for instance, business strategist Maria Marsala found two strategic business planning clients, four coaching clients, four strategic alliances and numerous subscribers to her weekly e-newsletter.

Beyond just having a profile on the social network, Marsala, owner of Elevating Your Business, also replies to questions on LinkedIn Answers and participates in 50 LinkedIn Groups.

The latter are discussion forums populated with her ideal potential clients, like independent financial advisers, accountants and insurance brokers.

But purposefully, Marsala doesn’t have a huge number of LinkedIn connections. Valuing quality over quantity, in 2010 she decided she wanted to meet with each connection in person or over the phone. Her number of connections ultimately dropped to 90 from 2,500.

Marsala suggests startups take similar care in building connections. She also warns new business owners not to spend too much time on social networking.

“The best way to use social networking to me is integrating it with what you’re doing and using it to bring traffic to your website,” says Marsala, who is based near Seattle.

In contrast, she says, the process time for getting business is so much shorter when you can actually speak with somebody face to face.

So, start setting up one-on-one meetings, attending local networking events, and participating in get-togethers hosted by business groups.


Showcase Your Expertise

Find opportunities to give presentations to business groups and at formal networking sessions.

Also consider publishing your ideas through guest articles in relevant publications. Blogs and email newsletters are other options. Each time you publish online, include buttons that readers can click so they can share your writing on social media sites like Twitter and Google Plus.

Creating videos is another way to demonstrate your skills. Posting them can also improve your website’s ranking in search engines. And the videos don’t need to be expensive productions.

Sushiism Restaurant + Social Lounge, a new eatery in Carrollton, Texas, has already started generating video content.

Not long after Siri Inoue opened the Japanese restaurant with her husband in late 2011, the two created a video of Inoue discussing an entrée. She has plans to feature more menu items and content, such as how to properly eat sushi.

The videos, which are posted on YouTube as well as Sushiism’s website and Facebook page, enable Inoue to share information about Japanese culture and food etiquette, but that’s not all.

“People can get to know who we are,” Inoue says. “What kind of attitude we have, what kind of food we serve.”


Get Others Talking About You

To create buzz about your business, think of incentives you can offer to spur referrals.

Storymix Media uses its production capabilities. When a wedding professional refers a client, the company will produce a short video with the vendor’s logo and information. Storymix Media hosts it on YouTube, and vendors can post it on their websites or in social media.

“They get free marketing and they have happy couples who get to use our service, and we get to make a sale, so it’s really a win-win-win,” Fisher says.

You should also encourage your customers to write reviews.

“Reviews are very profound, especially for small businesses,” says Jason Hennessey, chief executive officer of EverSpark Interactive, an interactive marketing agency in Atlanta. “When you look at ‘Atlanta plumber,’ and Google displays six plumbers, if two have a positive review, that’s a competitive advantage.”

Don’t fret if you get some negative reviews. Openly replying to those presents an opportunity to demonstrate your top-notch customer service.


Buy Targeted Advertising

Consider purchasing text-based ads on search engines like Google and Bing that pop up when users type in certain keywords. You can choose a daily budget and pay only when people click on an ad. You can even target your ads to people in a specific area.

Facebook, which collects tons of data about its users, now offers a similar pay-per-click option.

Facebook is a very cheap, effective way to drive targeted traffic to your website,” Hennessey says. “They have all these pre-qualifiers that you just check off.”

Storymix Media has had success buying ads on Facebook. The company is able to target its messages at engaged individuals and filter even further, like by age and interests. Fisher says he can quickly learn which ads are working and which need to be tweaked. The strategy is measurable, too.

“We could say we spent this amount of money and we got this result from it,” he explains.

Lastly, try giving daily deal sites a go if they make sense for your business and you can negotiate a good deal. Mega sites like Groupon and niche sites like RapidBuyr, a business-to-business service, can potentially drive sales and give you exposure in a targeted area.

Inoue saw traffic to her website temporarily spike around the Groupon promotion she launched about two months after opening. The offer was $20 for $40 worth of Japanese fare. More than 540 Groupons were purchased.

“To be honest, Groupon really did bring us a lot of business,” says Inoue.

But now, her focus is on building good relationships with those guests so they’ll return even without a coupon.

“We hope,” she says, “that they will.”


Mindy Charski is a Dallas-based freelancer whose favorite marketing vehicle, Twitter, didn't exist when she started her business in 2004. She tweets under the handle @MindyCharski.

Learn More About Marketing Your Startup

Check out these free online articles—exclusively for NASE Members.

  1. Who Is Angie? And Why Should You Be On Her List?
  2. Online Marketing: How To Take Your Message Beyond Your Website
  3. Surprise! Direct Mail Isn’t Dead!
  4. Schmoozing For Sales: Social Networks Give Micro-Businesses More Marketing Muscle

 

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