While building a startup presents various challenges, the reality is that growth is impossible without one thing: marketing to build an audience.
During our journey, we made a lot of mistakes. Fortunately, we monitored and analyzed what works and what doesn’t to help our colleagues avoid wasting time and effort.
Here are five marketing lessons we learned while growing a startup.
1. Great marketing can’t save a bad product
It doesn’t matter how good your marketing is; it can’t compensate for a product that doesn’t meet the needs of its users. Instead of creating a product that serves your business, build a solution focused on serving your audience.
On the contrary, you might not even need it to be heavily marketed when you have something worthy.
For example, Reface, a Ukrainian creator of the app that allows swapping faces in the videos, GIFs, and memes, got massive media coverage because they released a great, newsworthy product.
2. Find a unique angle for your content
There are lots of articles rehashing the same advice already posted by someone else. But readers need to extract value and real experience from your content. So think of how it’s better than the one that already exists.
Don’t copy the ideas of your competitors. Use their content only for inspiration but generate new unique ideas consistent with your brand. You can show how to achieve goals with your product or service. For example, a company selling email signatures can create articles with the best ways to personalize a business email.
To add more value to your content, you can also present your own observations and statistics. For instance, if you have a large customer base, you can make a survey and compile the results in an article.
3. Don’t outsource small-budget marketing projects
34% of digital marketing tasks get outsourced. However, from our experience, it’s not the best idea for a startup. If you think from the perspective of a successful digital agency, you realize that they are interested in large projects mostly. They will probably still take a small startup onboard. But be prepared that they won’t study the market for you and dive into your business.
If you still want to outsource, find someone already familiar with the market, your business model, and your target audience. Or better spend the money on educating your in-house team.
When we started, we hired two agencies for our startup. That cost us around $50k and a lot of time. Then we hired a marketing consultant to teach us and did the same work ourselves with much better outcomes.
4. Use multiple marketing channels
Your target audience may prefer a particular platform at the moment, but what if their preferences change or the platform’s algorithms shift? By diversifying your marketing efforts, you can have a greater reach and hedge your risk. It’s unreasonable to focus solely on social networks or just one platform. Consider email marketing, SMM, Google Ads, and other channels).
According to statistics, marketers using three or more channels to promote their campaigns earned a 287% higher purchase rate than their colleagues using a single marketing channel.
In the beginning, we also made the mistake of focusing on a single platform – Quora. We were happy with the results, but it couldn’t last long as we always understood that something bad could happen. For example, what if Quora bans us for some reason? Where do we get clients?
Then we started to learn more about other channels. And now we get clients not only from Quora but also from Google organic, podcasts, Product Hunt, Google ads, and other sources.
5. Start growing your audience before you have a product or an idea
You don’t need marketing if you’re still working on a product. Wrong! Later, when you decide to launch, you’ll want some support from your audience, which you failed to build long before the launch.
We can say from our experience that the best time to start gathering people around your business is the minute you decide to become an entrepreneur and create a product or service. The sooner you start building your audience, the more time you have to prepare the right content, choose the proper channels, test different approaches, and grow trust.
Even if you fail with your startup, you’ll still have the audience and can use it for your next venture.
Where do you start?
You can grow your social media following by providing compelling content and value. Or you can set up a landing page and add a signup form for interested people. On top of that, consider offering a freebie like a checklist, explanatory document, eBook, or a how-to guide aimed to resolve a common problem from your niche – in exchange for an email address. Finally, network with influencers from your target market, guest post, and speak at events.
Marketing isn’t easy. Whether you’re a well-established company or a small startup, you can be confused with all the marketing trends, tools, and tactics people are using around.
The list discussed above is our observations and insights we got while growing our business. Hopefully, you can adapt them for your startup, saving much time and effort.