Business as usual is dead. The pace of change in the digital age has opened up new opportunities, allowing startups to disrupt industries and challenge the giants of the corporate world.
You might not have the budget to match your established rivals, but with new technology and a little creative thinking, it is now possible to earn a seat at the table and fight for a share of the consumer pie without spending a fortune.
Here are five ways startups can build a presence without breaking the bank.
Be interesting from the inside out
The story your brand tells transcends your advertising. The product itself and the way it is packaged and delivered all provide a chance to be interesting. When an element of your brand is worthy of conversation, people will not only appreciate and remember it, but often capture it and share it. The power of social sharing today means that being “Instagrammable” can catapult a brand to success.
By taking the time to make your brand unique, noteworthy, surprising or otherwise engaging, you can create talking points that fuel word-of-mouth marketing and social sharing. The key is to analyze the conventions of the industry and what your competition is doing, and then make your brand distinctive. Or, as the famous Levi’s advert from 1982 instructs: “When the world zigs, zag.”
Make a statement
Taking a stance on something divisive can seem like a scary strategy. Why would you want to alienate 50 percent of your potential market? But to become a breakthrough brand, it can pay to appeal to your core audience’s shared beliefs, rather than maintaining the status quo.
This can be a stunt, an ad, or an ethos that filters into every aspect of your brand. Nike’s politically charged Colin Kaepernick campaign earned the sportswear giant $163 million in free media exposure, and while the stunt was incredibly divisive, it resulted in a 31 percent sales jump.
Not every brand can afford to be as bold as Nike, but the campaign shows how conversation drives results, as two-thirds of consumers say it’s important for brands to take a public stand on social and political issues. Trying to be all things to all people will more than likely leave you meaning nothing to anyone.
Use the 80/20 principle
The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, states that roughly 80 percent of effects come from 20 percent of causes. There is an ocean of research to back this theory up, but a major point in a business context is that around 80 percent of sales will come from 20 percent of customers.
For your startup, this means being highly targeted with your advertising. Focusing on reaching the 20 percent of your audience that is most valuable can be far more cost-effective than casting a wider net.
With social media advertising in particular, it is possible to be laser-focused when it comes to targeting. Identify the 20 percent and spend your advertising budget reaching this most valuable segment. Using remarketing and lookalike audiences is another great way to maximize returns from a limited ad budget, by targeting those that have already shown an interest in your brand, and others who are most similar to your customers.
Leverage user-generated content
With 92 percent of consumers saying they trust peer recommendations over ad content, it’s no surprise that user generated content now plays a key role in marketing. Influencer marketing has exploded over the past few years, but today, influencers can demand hefty sums for sponsored content, so user generated content offers a much cheaper and more authentic alternative for startups.
User generated content spreads the word about your brand through your customers’ personal social media accounts, but the content can also be repurposed for your brand’s marketing materials.
Online furniture store Wayfair lets customers show off the results of their online shopping sprees with the hashtag #WayfairAtHome. Wayfair then reposts the best images and provides a link so users can shop for the items featured in a customer’s home. It’s a clever and cost-effective way of combining customer testimonials with shopper inspiration, and is a tactic your startup could implement, as well.
Be ruthlessly analytical
In today’s fast moving world, it’s important to measure performance and always look at how campaigns can be improved to get even better results out of your budget. Split testing allows you to identify which elements of your marketing drive the best possible results. You can A/B test everything from advertising copy and email subject lines to social media targeting and ad bids.
Following this process every week or every month can help your startup generate exponentially better results over time. Whether it’s engagement percentages, click thru rates, costs per lead, or whatever you choose to focus on, being ruthlessly analytical about how you can squeeze better results out of your efforts can compound into significantly better results long term.
As the old adage goes, “What gets measured gets done.”
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