Don’t do advertising – it gives you lowest return on investment, and there are many, many things you should be doing first. Don’t do press releases – or press conferences for that matter. I’ll get to that later, but for now just remember: don’t. Name and logo are the first thing people should remember about your company, and the best way to remembering is repetition. So, don’t delay getting that sorted out, and start communicating both as early as you can Don’t burn your contacts – be careful with them. We’ll get to that in more detail later, but the important thing is to know each member of your network and to make sure you don’t tell them about your new thing before it’s ready Don’t assume – nothing in marketing is certain, and nobody’s knowledge (especially your own) is the final answer. So, test and ask around. Don’t hesitate too much: if you screw something up, people will eventually forget. Even if you can get something done 80% right, that’s way better than not getting it done at all. And that’s the last point – don’t just sit on your ass doing nothing. Do something, and at the end of the day you’ll be closer to whatever goals you have.
Why network? Tons of excellent reasons. As we’re talking about marketing, let’s focus on the relevant ones: they are the first test subjects for your product or service, they are the first evangelists for your business. So, how do you get a good network? Go where people are – it’s a hell of a lot easier than bringing people to you. Depending on the kind of people you need to reach – potential customers, potential partners, potential consumers – there’s always some sort of organization already there, bringing them together in one place on a regular basis. Odds are, you’re already a member of one or more of such organizations. Most of them are free or very low cost – but even those that do cost you money can be well worth it. Oh, and if you don’t think there’s the right one out there for you, you can always create your own. Just keep in mind it’ll be more difficult than you think.
So, how do you practically go about it? For each his own, of course. Here’s what works for me: share a beer with someone at the BetaGroup meeting, connect to them on LinkedIn, invite them for a lunch. No-one ever turns down a beer (or a wine, or a few potato chips). No-one turns down a lunch either. Once you have them in front of you, with their undivided attention – then you can convince them your product/project is the best thing since sliced bread to hit this planet.
Don’t worry about for a network full of CEOs. You’ll find a way to reach them when your network is large enough. Speaking of large – it’s not enough. Your network also needs to be “close” – meaning that it’s not enough to have a rolodex full of people you’ve met once. So, how do you work at it? Keep in touch with your network. Make updates on your linkedin profile, let them know what you’re working on. Send them congratulations when you see they’ve got a new job. Meet with them for a drink or a lunch – for a good reason or without a reason at all. Then lather, rinse, and repeat. Oh, and don’t forget to be proactively good to people. Share what you have, give without the hope to get something back. As an armenian saying goes, put bread into the river, and it will come back to you with butter. Eventually.
Your personal brand will come in handy when you get to some of the further stages. However, it’s a good idea to start working on it early. Way early. Before you know what sort of business you’ll be working on. What’s important is finding out three things: what you’re good at (in my case, pragmatic marketing) if there’s anyone out there who is interested in it (in this case, you guys) How you can best deliver what you’re good at to those guys – in this case, with a presentation Odds are, what you’re doing and how you’re building your brand will end up being connected to what you do with your business. Odds are even higher that what you’re good at IS your business. See the connectoin? It helps if you have creative inclinations, writing skills, or at least a sense of humour.
Same thing goes for speaking as for any other means of building your brand. It may not necessarily sell more of your goods in the short term, but it will contribute to your network tremendously, and it will help you build your own brand.
Before you do anything, research. It is an absolute must. You may have a brilliant idea, but it could be interesting just to one person – you. So, you need to talk to others to find out if it actually makes sense. Here is where your network comes in handy – if you know enough people (and enough people know you) it will be easier for you to get them to respond to your research. Keep in mind: if you mail out a questionnaire (old-school, ink on paper) to random strangers, you’d be glad to get response rate of 1%! You can do better with email surveys, but not that much better. The best way to do research is to simply talk to people – ideally one to one. If it helps you to be organized, write down a few simple, basic questions, for example: do you ever feel the need to do this? how much would you pay for this service or product? And then the truly important part: don’t look for confirmation of why your idea is right – look for proof that it’s wrong. Listen to what people are saying – in one phrase they can ruin your business concept, and in the next give you a new way to make it better than it was before. Of course, if you want to be a bit more certain, you can always do a bit of research. Get a list from a list broker, run a survey on random people, get some figures.
Considering the audience here, I don’t think I need to belabour this point. But it’s worth a mention anyway. What you see is not the most sophisticated site on the planet, but it works. And we got it for free. Sure, in our case it took some work to understand how to do it, and it took a bit of help of an actual IT guy. If you’re really too daft to build it yourself like we are, and you don’t have an IT guy handy, just hire your 7 year old nephew.
No matter what field of activity you’re in, there’s always a forum about it somewhere. Maybe not a 100% match, but for sure good enough for starters. Find them, watch them and get in touch with the good ones. Don’t limit yourself to an introduction only. Choose a proactive approach, feed them information, invite them for lunch, meet them at an event,... Once you’ve established a good contact, don’t let it go to waste, maintain it. An occasional telephone call, lunch or meeting will usually do the trick. Forum administrators and moderators thrive on recognition: if you can add to their street-cred on the forum, they’ll like you. Therefore: establish a two-way partnership where you feed them information and test-products, and you’ll get tons of information, market insight or even beta-testing for your products out of it.
How many of you guys read a newspaper? OK, nobody. So, how many of your parents read the newspaper? Different story, huh? So, point number one is don’t forget about newspapers. Second – don’t “send out a press release” – don’t do anything generic, actually. As a starter, find the three journalists in the country that would specialise on your subject, meet them, talk to them, make friends with them. Forget about everyone else. By the time you need to talk to everyone else, odds are you’ll have enough money to hire an agency to do it for you. And – those guys are BUSY. They’ve got no time to read the horrible home-brew press releases that all the other wannabes are bombarding them with. They work so hard these days they’ve got no time to read press releases sent to them by their long-lost brothers. So make their lives easier. Write a story they would be able to just copy and paste into the newspaper.
Email marketing is a cheap and effective way to reach your contacts, customers or prospects frequently. Compared to print mailings you’ll online incur a fraction of the cost. On top of that, you can log every click, and learn a lot about your customers by analysing the data you gather. No print campaign can offer that insight. On the internet, you’ll find lots of free e-mail campaign management tools. Some of them will certainly offer the features and functionalities you’re looking for. In an e-mail campaign, stick to your style guide, but don’t overdo it on the graphic site. Keep it simple: it increases readability. BTW: most e-mail applications block any active content you might include, so don’t even bother. The application is what makes your campaign get sent out. Relevance is what it makes read and clicked. Personalise your e-mail contect if your target group is too diverse. E-mail marketing is no rocket science. It has a couple a basic rules and principles that will direct you towards successful and effective communication. After some analysis, you can finetune for your purposes specifically along the way. Once you reach a certain volume or need more advanced functionalities, move your operations to a more sophisticated –payable- application. Free or cheap is good as long as it serves your purposes, if it doesn’t anymore, you’re wasting time and money anyway.
There is value in using professionals. They have contacts they can leverage for you, and they can (the good ones at least) tell you up front what is going to work and what isn’t so you don’t have to find out the hard way. It takes them less time to do what you need done than it would take you to learn to do it well enough and then to do it. But beware – first of all, professionals are in business to make money, not to provide you with the best possible service for the least budget. And, not all professionals are created equal. For example, a PR agency can ask EUR 2000 for a press release – and another one EUR 500. Obviously, you won’t be getting the same thing - so check exactly what each is offering, what you get for the money, what sort of guarantees they provide. Don’t be afraid to ask for a free sample of their work. If they aren’t prepared to do it – they are not hungry enough for your money, and therefore you should go somewhere else. Keep in mind that it is impossible to cut corners and still deliver good service in any business. So, if one offer is cheaper than all others, try to figure out why. The real story, not their sales bullshit. Only buy that cheapest service if you really can understand why they are so cheap. Finally, watch out for bullshit. Ask for everything explained in layman’s terms. If they can’t explain it – it’s bullshit or they are not good enough
Marketing for (almost) no money
Marketing for (almost) no money Startup Special
What not to do <ul><li>Don’t do advertising </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t do press releases </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t delay: name, logo and business card </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t assume: test and enquire </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t hesitate </li></ul>
Work with forums <ul><li>Plenty of forums out there </li></ul><ul><li>Spot – Observe – Contact </li></ul><ul><li>Turn them into a privileged partner </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Source of information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Market insight </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Beta testers </li></ul></ul>
DIY media relations <ul><li>Don’t forget about “traditional” press! </li></ul><ul><li>Choose relevant journalists and focus </li></ul><ul><li>Bring them stories they can print “as is” </li></ul>
Email marketing <ul><li>Highly effective and informative </li></ul><ul><li>Free or very inexpensive </li></ul><ul><li>Keep it simple, relevant – and follow basic rules for success </li></ul><ul><li>Higher volumes </li></ul><ul><li>more sophisticated applications </li></ul>
Word of mouth <ul><li>You have to take care of the big things… </li></ul><ul><li>… tiny detail that exceeds expectations make all the difference </li></ul>
Get professional help <ul><li>Wait till you’ve run out of free stuff, but don’t delay </li></ul><ul><li>Carefully compare options </li></ul><ul><li>Think three times before choosing the cheapest service </li></ul><ul><li>Watch out for bullshit </li></ul>