MARKETING WITHOUT BUDGET

3 practical tips from the start-up development expert

Which marketing channels might a start-up choose if the budget is either limited or missing? How can you identify and attract your target group? How can you differentiate yourself from your competitors?

Our invited expert Katerina Voronova, co-founder and CMO at InnMind.com, online space for innovative community, answers these questions explicitly.

Katerina Voronova

  • Katerina Voronova, together with all InnMind team, brought in daily traffic of up to 1000 visits without spending  any  money. She used numerous free marketing techniques including partnership marketing, content creation, social media, e-mailing etc. and brought more than 10k active community members onto the platform.
  • Every year Katerina supports more than 100 start-up projects in their business development, marketing and fundraising strategies.
  • In addition to that, Katerina is now developing a project in education, which is called ‘Let You Speak’.

Nowadays everyone talks about marketing, context, advertising, be it a large company, a technology start-up or a small business. Indeed, marketing is essential. Every day our potential customers are flooded with information, and if we don’t talk about ourselves, someone else will take our place.

But how can you ‘scream down’ your competitors in this battle for customer attention? And what can you do if you have just started a project and your budget for marketing activities is zero? Does that mean you’ve already lost?

Not at all. Of course, a budget allows you to cover more channels in a short time. If you don’t have one, you have to roll up your sleeves and invest in another way: with your time and energy.

     1. Measure thrice and cut once

Firstly, as in any other case, you need to develop a strategy. Your strategy should be aligned with the analysis of the key needs of your target group.

You need to understand what is important to your customers, what problems they have and how critical they are. Unfortunately, we often see start-ups developing a product based on false judgements.

Tip: Don’t try to guess, but start communicating with the audience right away, even if (especially if!) your product isn’t quite ready yet. Collect focus groups, conduct surveys, offer to test the prototype and listen, listen and listen again to what users have to say.

Sometimes projects try to solve a problem that doesn’t matter to the customer. For example, imagine a shoelace tying tool – it can probably make life easier, but is it necessary for everyone equally? It is likely to be of interest to certain population groups (e.g. pregnant women, the elderly, etc.) and it is important to take this into account in your market entry strategy.

Practice: Get to know the most common problems and requirements of your target group.

     2. Make a right impression

Now, you have collected the public’s opinions, learned what they lack from the existing offers on the market. It’s time to tell people about yourself – what is so unique about your product? And how do you explain  in such a way that your product will be remembered?

Tip: Entrepreneurs often talk about their product through its functionality. But I recommend shifting the focus from the main features of the product to the specific benefits of its application for the audience.

Compare:

  • Functionality: We have the best specialists on the market.
  • Benefits: We have the best specialists on the market, so you always get first class support and answers to all your questions. They can also tell you about the latest market trends, which will help you stay ahead of the competition.

Or:

  • Functionality: Our devices are equipped with built-in batteries of the latest generation.
  • Benefits: Thanks to the new generation of batteries built into our devices, you can use them autonomously within 72 hours. Thus, for example, you can take them with you when travelling.

Practice: Work through all the characteristics of your product/service in terms of benefits.

     3. Getting in touch with the audience

Once the audience’s needs have been identified and positioning clarified, it is time to start communicating through free channels (provided there is no budget for advertising).

There are many channels, and of course everything depends on your product/service. Where do you find customers? Where do they get information? What do they read? Who do they communicate with? I assume you already answered these questions when you did the market analysis in your strategy. So let’s get to the most important advertising channels that are suitable for both start-ups and medium-sized companies.

Website: The website is your business card. If there is no information about your project on the Internet, you simply do not exist for many consumer groups. Make sure that the website complies with the rules of usability, the navigation is clear and simple. Don’t forget the technical components of the page settings – all this affects the indexing. Check whether your website meets the key requirements for effective SEO.

Social networks: If you have a limited budget and no large marketing team, you need to make a decision. It is not advisable to enter all social networks at once and simply “be there”. Choose 2-3 and start with them. Share the news about the product, accumulate subscribers, people who are interested in your product, test your communication strategies. Gradually cover more channels and determine the most effective for yourself.

Content: Everyone must have heard the phrase Content is King. This hint is not outdated, but it should be clarified. The quality and format of the content is extremely important. Consider the interests of your audience and choose the formats that suit it. Even better, use different formats: Make videos, write articles, publish pictures and short tweets. By the way, it’s the video content that’s becoming more and more popular today.

Affiliate marketing: Expand the pool of potential customers, negotiate mutual support with partners, share information about each other. You can advertise mutually for free, or you can create promotional codes and bring the benefits of your product promotion efforts to your partners. When you choose affiliate marketing, be creative and flexible.

Testimonials: I think people will never stop sharing their impressions and talking about positive (and negative) experiences. Of course, for this tool to work, your product needs to be high quality and memorable. You can create an additional incentive system for those who review your product: Distribute gifts, discounts and bonuses.

Pop-ups and mail-outs: Today the mail-outs are used by so many companies that our mailboxes are flooded with unread emails. So when you choose this tool, remember that newsletters only work if they are filled with truly unique information, and not just with advertising. This rule can be applied to any channel: Don’t try to sell in every message. Instead, show what value you can offer your customers, show your competence and professionalism.

Lastly, I would like to point out that the most effective way of marketing is to constantly test and measure the results. Try new channels, change the core message and see what appeals to the audience. This is how you can find the best channels and formats for your promotion.

Which marketing strategies work for you? Share your tips in the comments!

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