The headline read: “Startup Marketing on a $0 Budget“.
As someone who does marketing for startups and fast-growing companies, I had to check it out. Imagine that, marketing with spending a dime!
The list compiled Ashwin Ramesh includes activities such as answering questions on Quora, leaving comments on blogs, participating in forums, blogging, building a free tool , and monitoring mentions of competitors on Twitter.
At first glance, most of the items either struck me as busy-work or non-marketing activity. Building a free tool, for example, is a wonderful idea but it’s not really marketing. The same goes for monitoring social media activity. Is that “marketing”?
There are many, many things that startups can do to wave the flag but what falls into the marketing bucket?
One of the biggest challenges for many startups is marketing is, in some ways, a nebulous activity for them. With expertise in engineering and development, marketing is a strange creature that uses a different language. And, even worse, marketers are slick-talking beasts that promise the world….at a price.
For startups, this is a confusing landscape. It’s like going to the Mandarin for dinner with a buffet featuring dozens of choices. Everything looks good but what do you pick to eat?
For startups, marketing is everything and anything. The options listed by Ramesh are, in theory, marketing because they can spread the word.
But the key question that startups must answer is whether marketing is going to move the sales needle. At the end of the day, marketing has a job to do: raise awareness to consumers move into the sales funnel.
If a marketing activity isn’t doing that, it’s not worth doing.
While there are some items on Ramesh’s list that have good marketing potential (e.g. blogging), I would argue there are many items that will not deliver a return on investment for the time and effort required. They will keep a startup busy but that’s about it.
Instead, startup marketing is about focusing on things that resonate, even if means have a limited marketing program. For example, I would much rather see a startup focus on having an active, insight blog that drives thought leadership and brand awareness, rather than trying to multiple marketing tactics.
In other words, you are looking for bang for the buck. As a startup with limited resources (time, people, money), it’s about marketing that matters.
In many cases, it’s a quality versus quantity equation, or less being more. Startups can get more awareness and traction by doing well at a few things as opposed to mediocre at many things.
The most important consideration about startup marketing is having a strategic plan, regardless of whether a startup is bootstrapped or well-financed. It’s about knowing your target audiences, and then aligning strategy, tactics and resources to connect with them.
This is a better approach than doing this, that and everything. From the outside looking in, it looks like a startup is actively marketing, but they really doing is spinning their wheels by spending time on things that have no ROI.
For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic planning, core messaging, product marketing and content development.