Marketing a startup is tough. You have a limited budget, and you don’t benefit from brand recognition. Even users who have heard of you may not know what you do, but they know your established competitors and people tend to favor the familiar.
Nevertheless, countless startups break through crowded markets. How do they do it with so few marketing dollars? How can you? How do you slay Goliath when all you have is a tiny slingshot?
Below are four powerful ways to squeeze the most out of every marketing dollar you spend.
Have you ever visited a website and then noticed thereafter that you keep seeing their ads on other websites? That’s retargeting, and you should push as much of your online ad spending as possible to retargeting.
Retargeting is amazingly cost-efficient. Anyone who lands on one of my company’s web pages, landing pages, or other digital properties will see our ads as he or she continues to browse the web. They are high value leads because they’ve gone to the trouble to visit one of our pages, so they are clearly interested in us. And, indeed, click through and conversion rates are markedly higher when this audience sees retargeted ads than when we run any other online ad campaigns.
2. Email marketing
Email is an extremely cost-efficient and effective marketing tool. Yes, most startups are already using it amid their marketing efforts, but consider making it a higher priority because it can be a goldmine. Of course, building your mailing list is the first challenge. Below are some common methods of building a list.
Requesting signups on your site
Providing valuable content pieces (e.g., white papers) to encourage readers to join your mailing list when they download the content
Collecting business cards at events and conferences
Running webinars and collecting emails from participants
I particularly recommend creating valuable content and adding anyone who downloads it to your mailing list. These are typically my company’s most responsive and lucrative leads over time.
Email will be one of your most efficient marketing spends because, well, it costs almost nothing. For instance, MailChimp and Constant Contact are both under $90 per month for up to 10,000 recipients. MailChimp is even free for up to 2,000 recipients.
However, never abuse email marketing! Share content that is useful and relevant. Send special offers, not company updates. Keep your emails brief and use visuals when you can.
3. Public relations
Entrepreneurs always aim high and getting coverage on the biggest news sites is a huge win. But this can take time, and you may need to hire a PR agency or full-time PR person. Even then, you may come up empty.
But if you’re in a hurry to get press coverage and your budget is tight, take a targeted approach. It’s easier to get the attention of niche bloggers or smaller industry sites. Because they are niche in your space, they may be specifically looking for companies like yours.
Remember, press builds on itself; sometimes smaller players get the attention of bigger players. Suddenly, your coverage by a specialist blogger could start working its way up the ladder inside the press echo chamber!
4. A/B testing
For almost every marketing channel you use, A/B testing is the difference between spending your money wisely, and unnecessarily throwing money down the drain.
In one email campaign I ran about customer retention, I wrote two alternate subject lines:
“Someone is about to dump you.”
“Boost customer retention next month.”
Each went to 1,000 of the names on my 10,000 address mailing list. Both had good click rates, but the first was the clear winner (40 percent vs. 30 percent, respectively).
With 8,000 remaining recipients after the test, the better open rate subject line yielded 3,200 opens. The other would have yielded 2,400 opens. This means I got 800 more opens simply because A/B testing revealed the more attractive subject line before I hit my entire list.
This is even more critical for online ads. You can waste a lot of precious cash, if you don’t do A/B testing. Google automatically helps you optimize ads, but you have to set up the test design. That is, you need to test the headline, body, and call to action (to name a few), as well as ad landing pages. Be methodical, and ensure that you’re always optimizing your results.
My mantra for startup marketing is “smaller hammer, sharper nail.” You can cost-efficiently win customers, without the big budget and team to match your competitors, if you’re savvy, opportunistic and focused. If you’re looking for investment in the future, you’ll get a lot of questions about customer acquisition cost. Make sure that while you are trying to get as many new customers as you can, you keep the acquisition cost down and you’ll be a more appealing investment, as well as a more profitable company.