Startups are a product of passion and love. Those involved in a startup will agree. The painstaking process of creating a wonderful startup, a great product is ecstatic. But, we live in a cruel and competitive world. Our startup can be shattered, broken or forgotten in the blink of an eye if not positioned properly. So, if you thought your destination was a creation of the startup and making of a brilliant product, stop and think again. The journey has only just begun. To live your dream and see your startup grow, you will need it to be heard, seen and talked about.
Sure, an expert could tell you how to maneuver the marketing and advertising road, but he will also charge you a bomb. Most startups function on shoestring budgets in the initial stages, and may not be able to stream out large amounts. What then? Become an expert yourself.
In this post, we help you do just that; we round up some free and easy ways to get the spotlight on your startup.
Tease and Progress
Startups are all about curiosity, experiences, solutions and people. String up these four individual components and use them to create a power-packed strategy that will get everybody talking about your startup. I shall coin this strategy ‘tease and progress’, because, well, that is pretty much what it does.
Word-of-mouth and grapevine are powerful means of communication. Besides, who does not like a story or some exclusive tidbit?
Let’s say, you are starting a food app that will detect the user’s current mood and pick up the most appropriate restaurant according to the mood. You will need to push this concept among your target group of the audience before launching the app.
How will you do that?
Questionnaires, Facebook pages, informal conversations, twitter streams are just a few ways, you can push your product to these relevant groups. Do it.
Detect the main problems and issues your consumer segment is facing. Discuss them. And then begin a teaser campaign. Let’s break it down step-by-step.
- You push the concept of your product in the relevant customer group.
- You realize the gap in the market.
- You develop the solution to it (your startup/product).
- You communicate to everyone that there is a solution to all their woes. It is soon to arrive in the market.
- You reveal just a bit of the whole plan, selectively but temptingly.
Every consequent feed, photo, conversation you have with your potential clients and consumers reveals a little bit more. As a result, this teaser campaign teases their brains, whets their curiosity and keeps them coming back. You build a story. And then at the climax, you tell them to wait for it.
By playing on the basic curiosity in human nature, and using the wide reach of free and excellent social network platforms, you have generated a massive buzz about your product.
You have a willing and interested consumer base ready even before you launch the product. Having said that, you have achieved this feat without making any exorbitant expenses.
Associate with a Cause
Besides peace of mind and a feeling of satisfaction, the miscellaneous benefits of associating your startup with moral and social causes will include media attention and potential customers’ recognition and interest. The point to keep in mind is to strike the association in a way that you do not spend monetarily, yet really promote the cause through your product or service.
Let’s assume you are a startup advertising and PR agency. You can associate with a worthy cause like prevention of child labor. You could make up a lovely jingle for them, maybe a few powerful slogans and ask for a mention of your agency in the credentials. You don’t spend any money, but the startup’s resources and time are invested. Remember, the monetary charges you forego, in offering your services will be much lesser compared to the positive exposure you gain, and the potential clients you make.
Become Your Startup’s Mascot
I am not talking direct, pure marketing here. There is a strategic way you can become the most powerful mascot of your startup. Admire and appreciate people. Nobody forgets appreciation when it’s genuine. We are obviously not talking flattery but pay attention to details. Posting something unique, special or nuanced increases your chances manifold of acquiring new clients or customers.
Personalized responses to queries and a positive interest in the competitor’s progress strengthen your brand value. It shows you are alert, knowledgeable and empathetic- the three key skills every client or customer is looking for. As an individual and the founder of a startup, strive for high levels of veracity in your personal behaviour. This will give you more coverage, and an edge over the competitors.
Make an effort to establish lasting impressions and relations. When you as an individual have a high credibility and reliability score in the market, the good reputation automatically transfers to your startup as well. I cannot stress this enough- do not underestimate the power of word-of-mouth.
Never refuse when someone asks for help. Try to the best of your abilities to help others who seek help, and if you really can’t, connect them to someone who can. Gradually, through benefiting and helping others, design a web of contacts and resources who would be willing to help and support you. When you have to create your startup and generate publicity for it, these connections will be the magic carpet that will help you take flight.
Communicate the Power of ‘St’ and ‘Est’
There is an ocean of startups out there. You must send a properly formulated press release to the relevant leading dailies. This is usually the job of a PR agency. However, get cost-efficient, and just ask one of your friends who is good at languages to draft out a nice copy for you. The job will be just as well done.
On your part, do some research and find out who are the journalists covering your sector, or who are the ones who would possibly be interested. Don’t automatically assume that every journalist will want to cover your startup. Learn the art of narrowing down. With that covered, find out your USP and highlight that in the press release. In fact, highlight your USP in all your startup related communication across platforms.
Nothing quite grabs attention like ‘first’, ‘biggest’, ‘smallest’, ‘fastest’ and so on. So find out which of these ‘st’ or ‘est’ you can attribute to your startup and convey it to your target audience. Your startup’s chances of getting noticed and written about, doubles when you apply the power of the ‘st’ and ‘est’ in your communication.
Connect With Your Loyalists
Before rushing on to pay hefty sums to expert bloggers to write about your startup, think of connecting with your loyalists.
Invest in a good designer. Ask him to make a remarkable website for your startup. Your landing page matters. Make sure you have an excellent one. Instead of guzzling out cash to agencies, identify connoisseur and experts among your startup loyalists, the ones who keep coming back to your website, regularly comment and are noted personalities in their own rights. Most of us know at least one or two such individuals who matter, and will endorse our startup.
Ask them to write a guest blog for your website. Happy customers are the best promoters. A daily blog could really keep your traffic flow ticking. Keep a nicely designed space for testimonials on the front page. A Mckinsey report states that 20-50% purchasing decisions are driven by testimonials.
If you know nobody with such a strong presence, fret not. Testimonials, pins, Instagram and twitter feed and Facebook shares by your regular clients will also massively increase traffic flow, exposure, and credibility of your website.
Have some interesting takeaways on your website, that web surfers will never find elsewhere. It could be a very keen and informative post, an infographic containing anecdotes, or a unique video. This is not necessary, but it leaves a good impact and increases traffic to your startup website. Have live question and answer sessions with your customers and potential customers.
Do not delete negative feedback or block these users. Embrace criticism and negative feedback. This is what will enhance your customer- understanding and rapport. Always reply to such comments and ensure you take real time action to redress the problems. You and your startup will be discussed and appreciated if you take such firm and positive steps. And we know, what doors that can unlock.
Use Free Platforms to Establish a Strong Web Presence
There are many platforms in the world of web to promote your startup. The Startup Pitch, Startup List, Reddit and Beta List are just a few examples of such platforms that can give your startup free and effective promotion, as well as connect you with a lot of potential clients. You should use these platforms to meet and interact with industry experts and get their honest feedback about your startup.
There are also a few websites that let you post ads for free. Yes, that actually happens! Merchantcircle.com, Craiglist, to name a few are pioneering the trend. Research such websites and use them to promote your startup.
Here’s hoping all you startup enthusiasts are equipped with ammunition now to tackle the ‘creating a buzz’ and ‘making a grand start dilemma’. No cash-guzzling promotion strategies, just a few smart steps, and there, your startup is all set to get the town talking. Do pay heed though, that once you achieve the target of being known, heard and seen, you will have to work consistently and devotedly to expand. Customer feedback and client responses will be your primary stepping stones to successful expansion. While we can discuss that in another post, for now, do let me know if the post was helpful for you, and if there are any other effective and free promotional strategies, our startup owners can use.