When starting a business, the initial concern is getting your product or service right. But a key focus from the outset should be mapping out your marketing strategy. Small businesses often have to compete in a highly crowded market against big players with much bigger marketing clout, so setting yourself apart is never going to be easy. Here are some simple marketing steps to keep in mind, which can help you reach more customers more effectively.
Get your story straight
For a marketing strategy to succeed, it’s crucial that brands establish a personal connection with the customer. This is where start-ups have an advantage. Many have an interesting story behind their business idea, which customers can relate to.
Take for example our loan recipients Claudi & Fin. Its founders Lucy Woodhouse and Meriel Kehoe met at their children’s playgroup, created their fruit lollies from scratch in their kitchen and ended up naming the company after their children. It’s a back story like this that gives start-ups the added advantage of being relatable to everyday consumers, so grab every opportunity you can to share your story.
Brand, Brand, Brand
Consumers today are overwhelmed with choices. The average human attention span has fallen to eight seconds, and in a packed shopping centre that’s likely to be even less, so eye-catching branding is crucial.
Consistency is also key, so ensure your marketing material, advertising, branding and social media is integrated so you are providing one clear, consistent message to consumers. And don’t worry if, at a later point in your business’ journey, you think your brand needs a refresh. One of our loan recipients, Dalston’s, is an all-natural soft-drink producer which we supported in 2012. Four years on and they decided to rebrand their drinks by changing their name and revamping their packaging, using PR and marketing to give the brand an additional push – as a result the business has seen an astonishing 44 per cent uplift in sales.
Stay close to home, at first
Some start-up business owners tend to think big and strategically. Take the time during your first months of trading to collect people’s thoughts and be open to criticism – and there’s no better place to do this than on your doorstep. Many start-ups begin selling to friends, family, or their local community at small fayres and events. It’s a great way to find out what does and doesn’t work, and can be a valuable initial source of feedback before you take your product elsewhere. That way you can fine-tune any problems before approaching big name stockists or branching out further afield.
Be the right kind of keyboard warrior
As a start-up, you might not be able to afford pay-per-click marketing or take advantage of SEO strategies but the one thing you do have is access to more than two billion Facebook, Twitter and Instagram users.
Social media is now one of the key mediums to promote businesses. You need to first ask yourself questions: What are you posting and who are you trying to reach? Is it your target audience, existing consumers or just anyone browsing the web?
This is a problem even big companies face, but for start-ups it’s important not to get these confused.
Make sure you target your primary customer group. Take Kokoso Baby, a coconut oil skincare product for babies that we helped launch. Their Instagram page clearly targets mothers with pictures of children who’ve benefitted from using the product. So create a weekly line-up of social media activity in advance and then double check that all of your posts link to your wider marketing strategy.
Don’t be afraid to ask
The well-known phrase, ‘it’s who you know, not what you know’ resonates in business. Make sure you network and build a contact list of people who can be mutually helpful. You also have the benefit of a ready-made ‘start-up community.’ There’s no harm in asking them about opportunities so don’t be afraid to send those emails or pick up the phone – aim to get one lead each month at first.
Learn from your mistakes, and constantly evolve
Marketing is big business and there are numerous paths to go down. Marketing plans will always be determined by budget, but think what fits your brand best and whether it will bring the right business rewards. You shouldn’t expect to get it right the first time – a press release might be overlooked, a product launch might go unnoticed but don’t be disheartened. The world of business is fast-paced so adapt and change your marketing strategy as you grow. It’s crucial to make notes of which tactics work and always link this back to your end goals.
David English is CMO at the Start Up Loans Company.