In the world of business, it’s definitely sink or swim. And if you aren’t able to get your business noticed, come in and disrupt an industry then sink is probably your fate. But with the pressures of a globally connected market place, where customers have virtually limitless choice and the next new brand is always just around the corner, waiting to be discovered, then how exactly is a start-up with a limited budget ever supposed to attract attention?
A small budget doesn’t have to spell the end for your plans to make a name for your business, attract investment, make great collaborations, carve out a niche and find your audience. You just have to get smart and innovate – something which you may already be used to as an entrepreneur.
Get Strategic On Digital
As a low-cost channel, and one with huge numbers of potential customers, most start-ups are better off focusing the majority of their marketing strategy on digital presence. This doesn’t have to mean splashing the cash on expensive digital ad packages.
Bear in mind that although social media can offer you a lot in terms of exposure if you get it right, it’s also very easy to get it wrong – and the main way businesses usually get it wrong on the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is to treat them purely as free advertising platforms.
Social media is not primarily a sales channel, and if you treat it like that, you’re only going to alienate and annoy potential customers. Think of it as being trapped in an elevator with someone who won’t stop talking about themselves. As soon as you could press a button to escape, you would, wouldn’t you?
Well, that’s exactly how all your interactions will feel to the very people you’re hoping to bring on board. It’s not a great approach to use every single post as a pure sales tool. You have to remember it’s about being part of the conversation – getting involved in relevant debate, winning over key influencers, sharing insider info or funny content – and occasionally, where relevant, talking a little about what you do.
It’s also important not to try so hard to be the ‘fun personality’ either – it’s about being authentic to your brand, and the vision and values you embody. Not every food outlet can replicate the Twitter notoriety of burger chain Wendy’s, famous for its roasts of other users. Users can see straight through anything which doesn’t fit well with what you’re about.
Give A Professional Service
It’s a very strange truth that as our businesses become more and more run with technology, so customers are increasingly seeking out the personal touch in all their interactions with us. Luckily, used right, that technology can help us to meet and exceed those expectations. Make sure the technology basics are right for what you’re doing.
Investing in solutions such as a great CRM system that will help you to personalise your marketing communications and customer interactions, a Virtual Phone Number which lets you benefit from professional call handling on the move, or Chatbot technology that can resolve routine queries at any time of day.
Exceptional service is becoming a hygiene factor that customers expect to encounter as standard. If you get it right, word of mouth marketing and social media testimonials from satisfied customers will help your brand to spread organically, so it’s definitely worth taking the time to make sure your service levels are something your business can be proud of.
Find Some Collaboration Opportunities
When you’re trying to get the name of your business out to a wider audience, there’s no better strategy than to collaborate with another, non-competing brand. It’s all about working out who’s offer would be complementary to your own – what can you offer to their customer base?
The deal has to work both ways and feel like a natural fit, or customers are unlikely to buy in to it. The same applies to working with influencers to get your brand noticed by their followers.
Aim to build long-term partnerships which involve a mutual co-operation – these work far better than just buying your way in, and gives everything a chance to develop more naturally over time. Always be on the look out for individuals or businesses that you could work with together for mutual benefit.
If there’s no one immediately on the horizon to collaborate with, try piggybacking – take a look at current industry trends, popular culture references or cultural events, and think about how you could connect with them and pull together an offer of your own that fits nicely.
Using a wider platforms like this can help to get your business noticed by people who may not normally have found you. It’s worth taking a look at your content calendar and setting it up against current events to identify any synergies.
Focus On Your Website
Your website is the best tool that you have – your shop window to the world, the destination that should encapsulate the essence of your brand vision, and the first port of call for customers, investors and suppliers. So naturally it should be top of your priority list to keep it the best it can be. You may know that, historically, you’ve under invested in your site, or it may be that you just haven’t had the chance to revisit it for a while.
Planning regular website updates into your budget for the year is hugely important, and you should look at your site as an ongoing revenue generator which needs to be constantly tweaked according to the feedback your site analytics give you to yield a greater return on investment.
Being able to be objective about your own website is important, and if you can’t, then running focus groups or website user testing is a good idea to gain the perspective of an average first time visitor. Often we become so used to the quirks of our own site that we forget they might not be as obvious to others. You have a very short window of time to make an impression, as studies show the average website user makes a decision in under four seconds as to whether or not the page they’re viewing is useful or interesting.
People don’t devote time to trying to navigate what they can’t easily find or scrolling through reams of uninspired, irrelevant content. Your website is primarily about the customer and isn’t to be used as a vanity project for the business – if they don’t find it useful, informative and well-presented, then it isn’t.
Get Out There And Network
As much as our worlds and our interactions are increasingly happening online, never underestimate the value of in-person events for spreading the word and creating a deeper understanding about your organisation and its values.
Find local networking events and not only attend, but ask for the opportunity to speak on something topical related to your area of work.
Have some printed material that you can give out to encourage people to remember you and what you do. And always take the opportunity to foster knowledge – whether that is through attending conferences to gain the latest know-how or creating events that give you a chance to share knowledge relevant to your business and introduce yourself.
Find the balance between sharing a taster of what you do and giving too much away for free.
Consider A Brand Refresh
Because rebranding covers so many routes – from a complete change of name, to freshening up assets and tweaking your existing brand, sometimes you can find that your company name is well known but it is hindering your progress. If other components of your product mix are missing, you may find you have something that doesn’t live up to the image. In that case, you must first address the root cause of the issue and work to correct it.
After that, it’s a case of adjusting your branding and messaging to communicate that change – so it could be that you have a renewed emphasis on quality, and you now need your brand to tell that story for you.
The past work of making customers familiar with your brand needs to be backed up with the execution to warrant the name. Sometimes it’s necessary to go through a period of rebalancing.
If you do decide your brand doesn’t really align with where you are anymore, be sure to make customer research a part of the decision process about what to change.
Consulting your most valuable customers about how they see your business can be very illuminating, and take you in a completely different direction than you may have considered. You may be answering a need for them that you don’t even know you do.
Conducting focus groups and online surveys as you redevelop your brand can be really helpful in getting your assets to stand out from the crowd.
Making your company stand out really does come down to a flawless execution of the basics and staying true to a specific vision. Getting these right is a lot more complicated than it seems, but with refinement and lots of little tweaks along the way, you can develop something truly unique.
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