Running a startup is far from being a smooth, linear process. As emphasized in a previous post on 6 Tips to Build Mental Resilience, it is necessary for startup founders and entrepreneurs to not expect success overnight and instead be in it for the long haul. Adopting this broad outlook means that you need planning and strategy to effectively grow and sustain your business.
You can’t expect customers to come to you with little to no effort; you have to reach out and make the first move. So here are four essential marketing strategies for startups to consider.
Find your niche
A business niche communicates to your target audience that you think ahead and beyond what’s generic and expected. Start by identifying gaps in the marketplace where customer needs remain unmet, or where innovation can further enhance the customer experience.
In the parental control software niche, for example, Bark is a startup using artificial intelligence to strike a balance between monitoring children’s internet usage while still respecting their privacy. Bark sends email or text alerts to parents once the AI detects incidents of cyberbullying or inappropriate sexual behavior, rather than making parents spy and log into their children’s accounts. This tool was developed by a team of parents, and is proof that your advocacies can also define a business niche.
Develop a brand identity
Another way to differentiate yourself from competitors and enhance customer recall is through a well-defined brand. Creating a vision and mission statement alongside a clear set of values can build an emotional connection—not just a profit-based relationship—with your audience.
The next step comes in communicating your brand identity visually and aesthetically. If you’re worried that your scale or resources cannot accommodate a graphic designer just yet, your startup can leverage free-to-use graphic design platforms to create the basic elements of an authentic and cohesive brand book, such as a logo, color profile, typography, or even a website.
Optimize your content for search engines
Creating visual and written content ensures that your startup enters and remains within your target market’s radar. A Maryville University post on digital marketing options lists content marketing as an effective way to promote your brand and engage your audience. By diversifying content across social media and business websites, your content can also inform and communicate with your customers.
Content marketing does not only rely on consistent posting and a familiarity with social media, but also on the use of search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is crucial for driving higher traffic and expanding your audience reach, mainly through using specific keywords and linking back to credible websites. Startups can leverage SEO by either hiring in-house or freelance SEO experts or utilizing free SEO tools that assess keyword rankings and page insights.
Connect with your community
Remember that your customers are inherently social beings who need a sense of connectiveness and belonging. Forbes stresses the competitive advantage of engaging with your communities to create brand advocacy, gain customer insight, and advance your shared core values with the customer base. More than just content and transactions, customers want meaningful interactions with like-minded individuals and fellow supporters of the product or service.
A notable example of this is the EdTech startup Codecademy, which integrates community support and networks in its business model by linking beginners with advanced learners and professionals through opportunities for mentorship and collaboration. Community involvement can also be done through offline marketing channels that help localize and/or personify your startup, such as fundraising events that bolster community participation or free merchandise that drives brand awareness.
As you carefully consider these marketing strategies for your startup, remember that a test-and-learn approach works best. If something doesn’t pan out the way you expected, collect feedback from your team or even your customers. Meeting your target audience where they are allows you to move on from failure and scale up towards success.
Article written by Ronda Janet
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