Hot new tech startups don’t sell themselves. Sure, we like to think that Facebook and Google were set up in college dorm rooms and somehow magically spread through word of mouth, but the truth is, word of mouth only got these companies so far.
A great product is half the work; advertising is the other half. If you want to grab people’s attention and make a reputation for yourself, you’ll need a solid marketing strategy to get the word out. The chances are good that you’re up against competition either from established competitors in your industry, or from other startups. That means cutting through the noise will be a challenge.
The good news is that marketing done right can help to cater to your target audience whether you’re B2B or B2C and whether you offer a product or a service. With a little effort and the right toolkit, you can catch people’s attention, introduce them to your brand and convert a social media follower into a customer. Here are nine ways to do just that.
1. Display advertising
Display advertising might seem like an old technology, but it’s still going strong and arguably experiencing a renaissance thanks to the rise of programmatic advertising. It’s now easier than ever to reach the right people with a message that resonates, and if you’re not using display advertisements to serve up re-marketing messages, you’re missing out on potential revenue.
When getting started with display advertising, it’s a good idea to test your ads across multiple platforms including Google, Facebook, Bing and LinkedIn. Tailor your messaging and imagery to each platform and run variants of the same ads to figure out what works best. You’re likely to find more success on one ad network than another, and it also depends on what your goals are. Just make sure your advertisements will produce tangible result so that you can measure their performance and overall return on investment (ROI).
2. Paid search
Paid search is different from banner advertising because it allows you to anticipate the intent behind a search and cater to it accordingly. Informational queries tend to be cheaper to bid on and are a good choice if you’re looking to generate leads by offering whitepapers and webinars. Transactional queries tend to be more expensive, but they’re also more likely to lead to a direct conversion.
For best results, test messaging that caters to both of these intent types and run your ads on both Google and Bing. Remember that while display ads are better suited to raising brand awareness, paid search tends to be more expensive. As such, you’ll want to make sure that it’s leading to some sort of tangible value somewhere down the line.
3. Organic social
With recent discussion about paid social and the fact that Facebook followers sometimes don’t even see updates unless you pay to boost them, we tend to forget that there’s a lot to be said for organic social media and the simple act of taking part in a community.
Organic social media takes many forms, from joining the discussion on a trending hashtag to publishing articles on LinkedIn and empowering employees to act on your company’s behalf. Participate in Facebook groups and answer questions on Quora. At the same time, seek out discussions that are relevant to the solution you offer and find a way to help out.
Rather than jumping in and immediately trying to sell your product, provide legitimate value to those seeking help. A good faith effort is often reciprocal; by giving to others, they will be interested in what you have on offer.
4. On site activity
Your website is an owned asset that you can exercise control over, which means you can affect everything from the order in which it loads to the signals it sends to both users and search engines. The most effective marketers are those who know that they’re never done and there’s always something left to optimize.
Search engine optimization, split testing, conversion rate optimization and other techniques will all help you to make the most out of your website. Better still, when you improve your site’s overall conversion rate, it’s a gift that keeps on giving; you’ll continue to reap rewards for months and years to come.
5. Content marketing
Content marketing is a key element of an inbound marketing strategy, a style of online marketing which relies on bringing customers to you through the creation of high quality content that they actually want to consume. The idea is that interrupting people with billboards and magazine ads no longer works, and that it’s a better plan to create the kind of content that they’ll actively search for.
Content marketing covers videos, imagery, audio, written content and more. It can be educational, entertaining or inspirational depending upon the context. But the good news is that you’re probably already doing some form of content marketing whether you realize it or not.
The field of content marketing is so vast that it takes a whole course to cover the best techniques. But in reality, getting started is very easy. Simply connecting a blog to your website, and writing content to share with social media followers is a big step in the right direction.
6. Direct email
Email marketing might seem like old news, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful. In fact, building and nurturing an email list is vital for any marketer because it’s another owned asset that they can maintain full control over. You can take it between providers without a problem and even use your email marketing list as the basis for records on a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
Email is powerful because of its low barrier to entry (you can get started for free with a provider like MailChimp) and because of its automation and personalization options. Test out many different emails, from happy birthday messages to license renewal reminders.
7. Special events
Special events are great because they allow you to bring people together around a common cause. The kind of events that you put on will depend on the specifics of your tech startup and the areas that you deal with, but one thing to bear in mind is that if you’re struggling to host events of your own then you may be better off offering to sponsor someone else’s event.
Remember also that events come in many different shapes and sizes, from pop up demos at industry conferences to huge parties and product reveals or even just private networking events. Some companies even hold experiential events in high-profile locations and use any ensuing footage to make campaign videos for further marketing material.
8. PR campaign
Public relations can help all sorts of different companies, but tech companies are particularly well-suited for PR techniques because new technologies are a hot topic that people want to read about. Some startups are able to work with a professional PR company, which is usually the best option if you lack expertise internally, but there’s still plenty you can do on your own if you just want to get the ball rolling.
Get started by drafting a press release about your company, making sure that it includes an angle that other people will find interesting. It's also helpful to get acquainted with the journalists who work for publications that cover your industry and develop and amicable business relationship.
Eventually, you can establish yourself as an expert that they approach for comment. The links this will enable you to pick up will give you a huge boost when it comes to your website’s search engine rankings.
9. Guerrilla marketing
Tech is about taking risks and trying things that others have completely overlooked. Likewise, guerrilla marketing and social hacking are about thinking outside the box and finding new ways to get the word out about your company.
The basic idea is to use non-traditional methods of advertising; if you were a trendy clothing brand for instance, you might consider graffiti art (wherever legal) as a low-cost, high-impact marketing hack that other companies would not be brave enough to risk. Netflix left cryptic messages on the Turkish version of Reddit to advertise the show Black Mirror.
There are no rules when it comes to guerrilla marketing, which makes it perfect for ambitious tech startups. This also makes it impossible to define or to tell you how to get started; the best advice is to try everything you can think of and see what sticks, even if that means doing things that other companies would never even consider.
When it comes to marketing your tech startup, you only need to worry about the basics at first. As long as you understand your target audience and how prospects are ushered along the buyer’s journey, the sky is the limit.
Remember that in the end, marketing is about building long-term relationships and not just securing a quick sale. The good news is that if you manage to create those relationships and build a community around your brand, it will pay back for years to come. Just look at how quick people are to buy the latest Apple product.
To learn more about marketing your startup, check out our classes on the following topics:
Konstantinos Vgenopoulos manages Digital Marketing at Miappi, a visual marketing platform.