You’ve awaited this moment for months, maybe years. You started with an idea for a highly useful product or service, then went through countless iterations of your idea, refining it to near perfection. Now, your product is waiting to ship, your doors are ready to open and you’re crossing your fingers that your modest production speed and limited staff will be able to keep up with what you can only imagine will be an overwhelming demand.
This is the point where you may run into a hardcore, even painful, reality.
The truth can be hard.
Turning your great idea into reality always feels like the most difficult step in getting your startup off the ground — until you realize that nobody beyond your family and close friends knows about your amazing product or service.
This difficult lesson evades many aspiring entrepreneurs: The success of your startup is limited by the number of potential customers who know about it. About half of all startups fail after five years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. To avoid that outcome, you have to grow your customer base.
Ideally, you’ll market your startup well before you’re open for business. Building a brand takes time and care, and it’s much easier to construct a thoughtful strategy when you’re not hemorrhaging money on rent, payroll, utilities and other overhead costs. In reality, however, your new business is likely strapped for cash.
What’s more, the launch date has come sooner than you expected. And you need to spread the word quickly to gain customers.
In the race to take your product to market, you may find it enticing to focus on the quick wins instead of the need to build a foundation for long-term success. According to his post on the blog Startups.co, Roy Morejon, president and co-founder of digital marketing agency Enventys Partners wrote, “Short-term wins absolutely exist, but instead of spending time and money searching for them, early-stage companies should formulate repeatable, scalable marketing techniques.”
In other words, your core marketing strategy shouldn’t be swinging for the fences and trying desperately to create a viral video. Rather, you should be focusing on the following basics to increase exposure in a sustainable way.
1. Define your brand.
Because you’re starting with a clean slate, now is the perfect time to find your voice and establish what your brand is all about. Your brand should reflect your company values and do so in a way that relates to customers personally and makes them want to be associated with you.
Resist the urge to imitate competitors that you perceive as successful. They started out just like you, so you should focus on differentiating your business instead of assimilating it to the industry. Ultimately, your branding will be one of the main reasons consumers choose your product over a competitor’s.
2. Reach your audience in smart ways.
To really connect with people, you’ll need to meet them where they spend their time. Identify those hangout spots, whether they’re online or IRL (in real life) and place your messaging there.
Offer valuable content to individuals in your audience, and identify influencers who can help spread the word about your brand. For example, MDR, Dun & Bradstreet’s education division, connects brands with the educators who are natural and effective influencers for younger crowds.
That’s why many brands utilize their reach to amplify messaging to millennial and Gen Z audiences. Find out how to leverage unique influencers for your own business, and you’ll be surprised by the effects.
3. Craft an SEO strategy.
After clearly defining your target audience, figure out what keywords they’re searching for. Your keyword list will help direct traffic to your site’s landing page, your blog and your social media pages, all of which should all be highly relevant to your brand. While it’s nice to win traffic from highly competitive keywords, instead start by targeting keywords with low competition and lots of traffic.
Define your idea of a successful campaign, whether that be in terms of newsletter signups, white paper downloads or product purchases; and measure your efforts against that monthly benchmark.
Marketing a startup is tough — you’re operating with a limited budget, and you can’t always bring in experts to help. If you strategize for the long term, you’ll have a much better chance of being successful. Start with these tips, and put them into practice before you launch. If you put in the marketing spadework beforehand, you’ll be able to enjoy the reward of watching your business grow.