A Guide to Marketing Your Startup Online (well) on a Budget.

With new platforms appearing every day, it can be confusing knowing what you should be doing when it comes to marketing online. And if you're a startup or a small business, you don't have the budget that a large company does. With these tips you'll be able to get your name out there for little to no money, and I'll also explain the 'must-haves' when it comes to building your brand digitally. 

P.S I've saved social media for the end because it's the biggest one!


NOTE: By the way, this article is about online marketing. There are still many other methods of marketing like traditional advertising and PR, but we will save that for another article.

LANDING PAGE

First off you absolutely MUST have a website. If you don’t have a website in this day and age, you are objectively insane. It’s how customers talk to you, it’s how new customers discover you, and it’s how you tell the world what you’re doing. Don’t worry, it is easy to setup with a platform like Squarespace. A good landing page needs to do a few key things:

  • Clearly show who you are, and what you do. It's also a good idea to show photos of your product being used.
     
  • Be simple but attention grabbing.
     
  • Show benefits of your offering / what makes you so great.
     
  • Have social proof ("I'll have what she's having").
     
  • Have a BIG and CLEAR call to action. 
     
  • Look great!!!

Check out the landing page of SumoMe. These guys specialise in creating clean, crisp landing pages optimised for conversions. This is just their first screen, when you scroll down, they tick literally every single box when it comes to making good landing pages. Take a look at the full site here.

If you don't have one, set up your landing page now on Squarespace. There are a range of great templates to choose from so you'll be able to have a great one. Also take a look at their 'cover pages'. These are minimalistic landing pages designed to only show core information. This may or may not be perfect for you, depending on your site. For something like apps or services that need explaining, these aren't as effective as a full site, but for something you're building hype for, or something that hasn't launched yet, it could be useful. 

BLOG

You should definitely be using a blog to generate content for your content marketing, and bringing new users in, even if you don't want to or don't think you need it. No matter what business you are in or what you are doing, someone out there loves it as much as you do. Even if you’re into something really whacky it doesn’t matter, in fact the more niche it is, the more passionate and loyal your readers will be if you do it well.

Blog articles also perform much better with ads and sponsored posts, rather than just promoting a page. For example my click through rate for my '5 Easy Ways to Save Money' article was less than a quarter of the cost of just promoting the home page of The Exceptions.

For those freaking out, the good thing is that this is as simple as adding a page to your Squarespace site, and posting good content every now and then. The more frequent the better. Read my article '5 Reasons You Should Start a Blog Today' to learn why it's so important. 

Example of my blog layout.

ANALYTICS

If you have no analytics, you are literally throwing darts blindfolded. Now, whilst it’s important to not get too caught up in the stats, it’s still massively useful to see what’s working and what isn’t, where your customers are coming from, what they are enjoying. Setting up Google Analytics is free and they offer really powerful information.

Just a quick note, don't freak out when it says 'input this code into the header of your website.' All you have to do is go to Squarespace (if you're using it), and go into > settings > advanced > code injection, and copy paste the Google tracking code into here. Then you're done!!!

MAILCHIMP

Don't forget about email marketing. It's still one of the best forms of marketing, so you'd be crazy not to. You can send offers, content, basically anything you want (as long as it's offering value) to a pretty loyal following direct to their inbox.

The easiest (and best) platform for this that I've seen is Mailchimp. You can send out emails with a sexy design (and there's SO many to choose from), get an insight into your subscriber list and keep all the info in one place, automate emails to send out when they sign up (like the one you get with free eBooks when you join The Exceptions), powerful analytics and more. It's also incredibly easy to integrate into Squarespace. Simply add a content block, select form or newsletter and in storage, log in to your Mailchimp account. You can then create a list, so that the emails of everyone who subscribes go to that list. Easy!

SUMOME

Mentioned earlier as the example of a great page was these guys. I wanted to include SumoMe because it's such a fantastic platform, and all it's core features have free packages. SumoMe is a bunch of tools to grow your website's traffic, and it works on any website. People just starting out seriously undervalue the power of analytics (don't worry I did too once). I won't go into too much detail, I'll let them do the talking! Check out their website here.

With this type of analytics, you can seriously improve your website. Most of all IT'S FREE! You'd be crazy not to! Same process as Google Analytics, follow the prompts them copy paste the code into the same place you did earlier.

GREAT DESIGN

Design in today’s world is absolutely huge. People only like to look at things that are visually pleasing. I’ve heard a lot of people say that ‘design doesn’t matter, the product is more important’. I disagree. Yes, the product is the most important factor because even with the best marketing and design in the world, if your product sucks you won’t get anywhere no matter what you do. But design certainly DOES matter, and more than people think.

You want to have clean, consistent designs across all of your platforms. This means having the same profile picture, cover photo and information on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube etc. Use Canva for your design work It's a free, easy to use platform that allows you to create beautiful images and use existing templates for inspiration. 

COLLABORATION

This is huge. Collaborate with people in your space that have a similar audience and cross promote on each other’s blog or Instagram. Find those influencers or people with great content and say ‘Hey we REALLY love what you do and would love to promote you the best way we can. If you’re interested we would be happy to have you on our blog as a guest as well as linking back to all of your sites.’ Don't just use people though. I only contact people that I genuinely like and follow, people with great content that my viewers would like, people I would happily promote. 

You also get to use their brand equity with your brand (what I mean by this is that it looks good when you have an influencer on your blog) and they will often share that post on their platform so they can feel good too. So by doing this, someone wrote an article for free, you associated with an influencer, they shared your site and you built a relationship. Win!

Below are two examples of how I partnered my app with great local food bloggers. You can also then contact the venues to say they've been featured in this great article or list that you have posted.  

HOOTSUITE

Hoot suite allows you to manage and schedule all of your social media content from one place. It also 'autoschedules' for you, so your content is going out at the best time of the day for optimisation. Social media is incredibly important, and managing it can be time consuming. With Hootsuite you are able to make this process a breeze.

Their free plan allows you to manage 3 accounts. Upwards of that and you have to upgrade, but 3 is still plenty for when you are starting out. Even if you do upgrade it's only around $15 a month and they have awesome paid features.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Alrighty, last but absolutely not least is social media. I saved this bit for the end because it’s more in depth, and this is arguably the most important part. 

Okay, you are just as insane as the guy that has no website if you don’t have any social media set up. Social media is huge, and best of all, it’s free! The biggest thing I want to talk about is building community. You need be TALKING to your customers. Engage with them, let them know you are listening and actually take the time to respond.  

At the absolute minimum you need a Facebook account, Instagram and Twitter. There are a several great platforms out there, but every company's audience varies. Every social media platform is different, which have different users and different ways they operate. The most important question is: Who is YOUR audience? What are they looking at? Where do they go? This is absolutely critical to figure out.

I’ll help you with an example. My app is a Tinder style swiping app for food, drinks and activities. The main audience is younger people that like food and travel, so they are predominantly on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (with secondary apps like Pinterest, Periscope and Snapchat). I’ll briefly go over why they’re so important and how you can use them.

FACEBOOK

Facebook is the biggest social media platform and you need to be on it. It’s a part of almost everybody’s life, and what’s most exciting is the targeting you can get when it comes to advertising. Facebook has recently turned into a more ‘pay-to-play’ platform which has frustrated a lot of people that don’t like paying, but what they are missing is that if you do pay, the results can be unreal. The targeting is seriously incredible. You can hone in on people living within 5km of the CBD that are interested in vegan food, that have used a travel app in the last 2 weeks. This isn't even scraping the surface that's just a seriously basic example!

When it comes to your Facebook page, make sure all of your information is up to date, have nice designs for your profile picture and cover photo, and try to post once a day. The best time to post for me has usually been around 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm as people are finishing work and sitting on social media, but again - this depends on your business and your audience.

Facebook is amazing and very powerful, but it's also one of the most difficult ones to understand how to do properly. I recommend doing more research and perhaps even courses (there are a few on Udemy) to learn how to do it as effectively as possible.

TWITTER

ABOUT TWITTER
Twitter is all about conversations and communication. Content is also shared a lot more here than other platforms. People Tweet all the time, much more than they would on Facebook or Instagram. A lot of people don’t understand Twitter (when I first tried it I didn’t either) but I honestly would rank Twitter as the absolute best platform for talking to your customers. Similar to the power of Facebook’s targeting, Twitter’s search is almost just as amazing. You can search for what people are saying about basically anything and in any area, and then engage in that conversation. Building a community is MASSIVE and it is the new way of marketing. 

TWITTER SEARCH
I think this is SO underrated. Twitter is all about engaging in conversations and building community, and the most powerful part of this platform is the search functionality. The most important thing brands can do is respond to their customers when they are reaching out. Although when you’re first starting, you won’t have many customers, so this is about findingthem. So instead of responding to conversation you need to CREATE the conversation.

Understand your industry and your product. What are people talking about there? For example, I wanted to get a few people to try a test version of my app AroundAbout in New York. So I went on Twitter and searched ‘New York Food’. Then there are endless results of people talking about the food. You then jump in there, favourite a tonne of things, follow a bunch of people and then talk to people even if it’s just saying ‘that looks awesome’ and then giving your genuine comments. It’s also a good idea to ask a question so they are inclined to respond. For example things like ‘That food looks amazing! What is the dish called?' or ‘We love Brooklyn too! Where is your favourite place?' Things like that engage people in conversation. Do this every day.

If the person follows you back, you are then able to direct message them where you can talk more. This can be powerful, although keep in mind that it’s in private, and it can be better to utilise the public feed. Customers feel good when a brand is speaking to them publicly and they like to retweet it, getting you more views.

INSTAGRAM

ABOUT INSTAGRAM
Instagram is another enormous platform, and one I really like to use. The main reason I enjoy Instagram is because it can really be utilised to show your customers are more personal side. You can show them how you do business, the cool stuff you do in the community, behind the scenes, even if it's just a puppy in the office. It humanises you in a world that is becoming less and less human. 

Set up an Instagram page with a good bio that is clear and concise, post once or twice a day (more if you're just starting), follow lots of people and make sure you are active by commenting and responding.

INSTAGRAM HASHTAGS
People mostly just use Instagram to post pictures and follow a few friends, but for business it is another great discovery platform, and a powerful way to talk to people. Similar to Twitter, you can search for people and hashtags - the hashtags are the really good ones. Back to the AroundAbout example for my app, I was looking for foodies in New York that I can chat to. So you can search #NewYorkFood into the search bar and get an endless stream of results.

You can look at popular hashtags to see what people are tagging the most. This is usually a good place to start. Another great feature is that it has ‘top posts’ and then ‘most recent posts’. With top posts you can find who are the main influencers for that tag and that industry. This is great for finding influential bloggers, and anyone that has a following for what you are trying to promote. It's also handy because you can see who's the most active and who would most likely reply to you

 
 

The only downside is that you have to search exact tags, for example #NewYorkFood (that exact keyword). On Twitter you can search New York Food and anything that has those three words in it will pop up, meaning you get access to way more results and conversations.

The last thing about Instagram which is REALLY underrated is the direct messaging feature. On Twitter you can only message people if they follow you back. On Instagram you can send a message to anyone. Granted, if they have a lot of followers they may not see it because their account is full of messages, but some will. 

YOUTUBE

YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world and can be overlooked. It sounds weird to say YouTube is 'underrated' but I feel like some people look past it if they think their company or content isn't 'video-worthy'. I encourage you to jump on YouTube and start making videos whether it's a video blog, a showcase of your product, talking about.... anything really. Just like how you should make a blog no matter what you're doing. It’s also free to use and uploading videos is simple. I decided to make video blogs for the Exceptions and it has been very useful. 

I want to make an important point. If your CONTENT is great, don't worry about the video quality. The quality of what you are displaying is what matters, not the lighting. I see too many people hold back because they don't have the 'right camera' or the perfect equipment to shoot it like a Steven Spielberg movie. Seriously, an iPhone and a gorilla pod ($35 max) is great for this. As long as your CONTENT is solid.

It’s also not a bad idea to throw a couple dollars on your videos with Google Adwords. By paying for a few views it also boosts your organic search which is great. I got 13,000 views for $40 which is pretty cool! Just make sure the start of your video is compelling and makes them want to watch.

FOCUS ON EVERYDAY PEOPLE

A lot of people tend to target the influencers (bloggers, Instafamous people etc) that have a lot of followers because they think that’s who they need if they want their page or product shared. Sure, it can be handy, but what I really recommend is focusing on everyday people that may not have many followers. Let’s be honest, followers don’t really matter in the scheme of things. Everybody is the same, we are all humans and I don’t like that people that don’t have a ‘good enough’ following get disregarded because if they share your product ‘nobody will see it’. If you’re looking for real customers and users, it doesn’t matter if they have 2 followers. Connect with them, make them feel special, let them know that you chose THEM to try your product and treat them like they’re a million dollar customer.

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By being active on these platforms and using them to their full potential, you can build a solid online community and make noise! There are many other sites you can use depending on your industry and your audience, but these are the must-haves. Happy marketing!

MITCH HILLS


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