A friend approached me recently for advice on how to use his startup’s first marketing budget. He knew the amount wasn’t enough to contract an agency, but he and the other executives are all scientists – not marketers – so they didn’t know what to take on first.
Startups and other small companies often struggle with how to market themselves. A year’s worth of profits may not afford them logos, let alone websites or other substantial branding materials. And when it could be another year before they scrounge up the funds to execute the next step in their strategies, it’s essential to make sure that their first step has legs.
Startup marketing isn’t one-size-fits-all, however. Every company has different goals and different resources to leverage so that they can allocate their budgets appropriately. For most, a functional website is probably a safe bet, but connecting with the right people is more complicated than buying a domain name. To be the most effective, start with the basics.
3 marketing tips for startups
- Tap your network. Successful entrepreneurs know the value of creating and maintaining relationships. Even if you’re not an all-star networker, you can ask friends, family or former co-workers for advice or to connect you with someone who could help develop your marketing plan. Take inventory of the writers, designers, coders, developers or agency professionals you have access to and reach out to see if they’d be interested in sharing some advice or joining your project. For the cost of a cup of coffee, you might receive valuable insights that could help you meet your goals.
- Think critically about your internal bandwidth. Many companies, large and small, try to save money on marketing by assigning tasks internally. While we always support involving thought leaders – particularly for technical or otherwise complex content – those members of your company may already have too much on their plates to devote the necessary time to marketing. Employees at startups are often stretched thin, with little to no spare time, so asking someone to take on a marketing project could mean something else gets put on hold.
- Identify your audience. Startup marketing audiences vary widely, from customers to media, investors and potential partners. The key to making the most of a startup-sized marketing budget is to identify the most important audience for the company’s current needs. From there, you can determine the best methods of contact, what you want them to know about your company and – most importantly – why they should care.
Once you’ve identified the resources at your disposal and the primary audience for your efforts, you can move forward with developing an outbound or inbound marketing strategy and the in-budget tactics to support that strategy.
What did you do with your first marketing budget? Let us know in the comments.