The internet is filled with advice for young startups. It can be a little overwhelming, and sometimes frustrating, especially when so much of it is less about startup advice and more about life advice. (Looking at you, all those blog posts about staying positive and being confident.) But there are some things burgeoning startups really should keep in mind, especially if they want to maintain efficient management and organization, and make a strong impact as they establish their brand and their marketing footprint.
1. Use Software Tools to Organize Your Thoughts and Your Work
Work started to go digital a long time ago, but it’s been a long, rough transition. Computers make things a lot easier, but they sometimes give us too much choice and offer too many distractions. Email is fast, but keeping track of emails throughout the workweek can bog us down. And as always, it can be difficult to communicate ideas in a creative and productive way.
Thankfully there are various software tools available now which attempt to close the gap between computer efficiency and human ability. Feature-packed, all-inclusive digital workspaces like Asana, and organization apps like Notion, allow companies to establish a collaboration and communication environment where employees and employers can enjoy transparency and lightning-fast efficiency. These comprehensive digital workspaces will allow your startup to operate like a lean machine, cutting down on wasted time and resources.
To cut through the distractions and distill your best ideas from the swamp of could-be’s, there are a number of creativity and mind-mapping apps designed both for individual and collaborative use. One example is Braincat, a mind-mapping and brainstorming app that’s useful to refine your business ideas, marketing priorities, and opening plans.
2. Embrace Grassroots Marketing
The key to understanding grassroots marketing is understanding the importance and function of word-of-mouth. In essence, grassroots marketing is all about cultivating an organic market presence by generating word-of-mouth. Rather than trying to reach the largest audience possible via traditional advertising methods and having their message fall largely on deaf ears, many startups will benefit from targeting a specific audience or demographic niche and propagating genuine excitement that spreads organically.
A good grassroots marketing campaign will likely feature real-world presence and active brand awareness. That means having real representation at community functions and events, festivals, trade shows, and in general public spaces. As for active brand awareness, one of the best ways you can spread awareness about your brand is by distributing branded merchandise. Gareth Parkin, CEO of GoPromotional, is a champion of branded gear. “As a startup in a sea of startups, the first thing you’re fighting for is legitimacy, and when your brand can be seen on hats, shirts, and other merchandise in the real world, it becomes that much more legitimate and undeniable, especially when strategically planted for your specific audience,” says Parkin.
3. Secure Your Digital Real Estate
This one is short, but oh so sweet: before you decide on a name, make sure you’ll be able to acquire the appropriate digital real estate to accommodate that name. In fact, before you even register your startup as a business, have your web domain and social media handles already set up and ready to go.
Don’t think you shouldn’t just start your naming process at the domain name search bar, either. There are still thousands of unclaimed domain names ready to be snatched up for next to nothing via GoDaddy and Google Domains, so if that name you just love is already taken, you have plenty of options to choose from. If you are set on a particular domain name, but it’s already taken, figure out who owns it — this is public information, found easily via domain name registrar services — and inquire about purchasing it. No matter what you do or which domain name you end up with, it’s never a bad idea to also acquire variations of that domain name, such as those ending in .net and .org.
4. Engage Your Customers Directly
Your social media posts, website, blog, Google business profile, advertisements, and other public-facing marketing and brand awareness efforts are of utmost importance, but they are no substitute for direct engagement and interaction with your clients and potential clients. That’s right: if you really value your clients, which all the best companies do, then make that signal that by communicating with them on a personal basis. There are a number of ways to do this, and if you have the resources, you should cover all of them. Submit personalized responses to Google and Yelp reviews, chat with your social media followers both in public comments sections and when they slide in your DMs, and when you make your brand present at real-world functions, make sure your representatives give as much individual attention as they can to prospective customers and interested parties.
It may come as a shock, but simply checking in on your customers will boost confidence in your brand and inspire return business. Don’t believe me? Ask Indiana-based Sweetwater, perhaps the largest music instrument and equipment retailer on Earth, who credit their massive growth and success over the past two decades to a proactive customer service and engagement model. Sweetwater sales reps are the envy of sales teams worldwide, well-loved for their friendly and helpful demeanor, their dedication to individual customers, and their practice of calling customers just to make sure there are no issues with a recent purchase. Just as Sweetwater’s customer engagement sets them apart from scores of similar retailers, your customer engagement can set your brand apart from the competition.
5. Seek Partnerships With Other Startups
In any journey, there’s no reason to go alone, and in the business world, there’s no pride in being a lone wolf. Success is success, whether or not you had help getting it. Your startup will only benefit from working with other startups or established companies, and that includes marketing partnerships.
Affiliate marketing, a marketing tactic that involves the generation of interest and web traffic by way of a third party, is one of the best ways to work with other companies to increase market presence, brand awareness, and ultimately, sales. While affiliate marketing typically follows a service-and-compensation model, where you pay a third party to link to your website, it’s absolutely possible to establish a mutual, and more informal, affiliate relationship with another startup, contributing to each other’s web traffic by way of friendly shout-outs, social media tags, and links embedded in your website’s blog posts.