Business start-ups face many challenges, but none is as dangerous as the struggle to remain cash-positive.
The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) estimates the average cost to start a business to be in the neighbourhood of $30,000; and there’s significant variance in this figure, with some companies starting out for just a few hundred dollars and others requiring upwards of millions.
Having a great product is essential, but that alone isn’t enough to make your start-up successful. Aside from your fantastic product, you’ll also need a stellar marketing strategy to grow your start-up. But for many entrepreneurs, it’s simply not realistic to spend a lot of money to acquire new business.
1. Earned Media: The value of a credible third party touting your praises cannot be underestimated. Not only do press articles and earned media gain you trust, but you can also benefit from a wider distribution by leveraging their existing audiences. Influencers and bloggers can fall into this category and can share your company with their followers, which gains you an endorsement with potentially exponential reach. Stunts can also be a creative (and low-cost, if done right) way to garner media attention or that of your target market.
2. Social Media: Having your own social channels not only allows you to control your message and share updates freely, but also allows you to build a community around your brand, company and product. As a free channel to activate, social media can be a great place to build user-generated content, get feedback or even address customer service concerns. Many customers also look to social channels to see if they can trust the brand or company or to check out their reviews, so maintaining a presence can actually help conversion rates.
3. Content marketing: According to the Content Marketing Institute, nearly 90 percent of brands use content marketing to grow their businesses. It’s the perfect marketing strategy for start-ups and small businesses because it works within the confines of limited resources. Even though content marketing is extremely popular, not everyone finds success with this tactic. Lack of a documented content strategy is one of the primary causes. Without this crucial piece, your efforts will be less effective. As a result, you could face significant challenges when you attempt to implement content-marketing tactics.
4. Email marketing: Email marketing remains one of the most cost-efficient marketing strategies around, with some sources claiming a return on investment (ROI) of 400 percent or more. As long as you have a good list (organically curated, rather than bought), and a steady but non-invasive stream of outgoing email blasts, you should be able to see a significant return on any time or money you put into it.
5. Personal branding: Personal branding works much like corporate branding, except it’s going to apply to you as an individual. You’ll promote yourself and your expertise across social media, and possibly on a dedicated blog, earning new followers and a separate source of traffic and interest. The value here is that people tend to trust other people more than corporations, so eventually, you’ll have a separate, powerful outlet you can use to syndicate your content or attract new leads all without paying a dime.
6. Referrals: One of the best ways to market is to avoid marketing altogether; instead, create a system that lets your customers do the marketing for you. Consider the fact that people are four times more likely to buy a product when it’s referred to them by a friend. Despite tech publication reviews, we still trust personal recommendations more than anything else. What’s more, establishing a referral program doesn’t cost much, and depending on how you structure it, might be entirely free. You could offer your current customers a discount on their subscriptions in exchange for referring a new customer, or offer a cash reward, if you’re really invested in this strategy. Just make sure to get word to your customers.