It’s a dream come true, and you are undoubtedly excited. You may even have a customer or two already. But here comes the tough part: How do you go from having a few customers, to enough customers to sustain your business and fuel its growth? Your sales team will of course have a huge role to play in this trajectory, so hire wisely. But you will also need a steady stream of leads that you can feed to your sales people. Where will these leads come from? In all likelihood, they will come from your company’s marketing efforts.
It would great if there was a straightforward formula that shows that if you spend X dollars on marketing you will get Y leads in return. Alas, this is not the case. This is particularly challenging when you don’t have millions of dollars from VCs to spend on testing every marketing whim and fantasy. For most startups, you agonize over every dollar spent. An unfortunate consequence can be paralysis by analysis -- you aren’t sure where or how to invest marketing dollars, so there’s a tendency to do nothing and hope for the best.
Marketing is top of mind for me at the moment. My company Torsh, an education software company that produces TALENT, an online platform for teacher professional learning and development, is knee-deep in the hiring process for a marketing professional to propel our business forward. Keep in mind, we are already six years into this startup journey. If you are just starting out, it’s very likely that you don’t have the budget to hire a full-time person, and don’t have money to invest in marketing initiatives that may or may not move the needle. So what can you do in the interim? Here are five simple, straight-forward thoughts on how to market with little or no budget.
Give some real thought to your brand and your message, and strive for consistency.
Take time to really consider who you are, who your customers are, what you want your brand to represent, and what your message should be. Consider this a very simple marketing roadmap. Then stick to it. A few years into our business, we did a marketing audit and discovered that we had begun to use, over the years, a variety of tag lines. Our web site said one thing, our print collateral said another. We had t-shirts printed for a conference and those communicated yet another message. This seems obvious; but when you are juggling a thousand balls and your hair is on fire, it’s easy to lose sight of these details, especially if no one “owns” the marketing/communication piece of your business. As you prepare to launch your startup, pause and take time to really focus on your brand and your message. If you have launched already, schedule in some time to do this asap. This will save you time and aggravation (and probably money) down the line.
It’s a dream come true, and you are undoubtedly excited. You may even have a customer or two already. But here comes the tough part: How do you go from having a few customers, to enough customers to sustain your business and fuel its growth?