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How can I market my start-up without a budget?

How can I market my start-up without a budget?
Mike Everitt
Start-up advice, Business development, Tax and accountancy, Mentor
Find out more about Mike Everitt

In this article you’ll learn

  • How to develop a marketing plan
  • Where to allocate your time
  • How to circulate your businesses name

Two questions spring to mind when you are looking to develop a business, particularly if your business has just started.               

The first is what do you know about your customers and the second is what do your customers know about you?

Market research will give you more detailed information about your customers’ needs & preferences however how do they even know you exist? Marketing is a substantial topic and this information looks at dealing with one aspect of it; how to raise awareness of your products and services?

Marketing-image

Before doing market research you need to create awareness of products and services. 

You should accept the fact that all marketing will cost you money in the end, even if it is just an investment of time, time is money, what you are looking for when marketing is the best return on your investment.  Every penny in your marketing budget has to work hard. You shouldn’t engage in marketing and advertising without careful thought and planning and then you need to measure the results; if it doesn’t work stop doing it!

So prepare a simple marketing plan, understand who your target market is, the sector's, geographical locations, preferred methods of communication and an idea of how your product or service fulfills their needs. Make sure to research the market thoroughly, including identifying who the competition are and where and how they promote themselves.

Marketing-image

Marketing does not necessarily mean big budget, there are many effective marketing activities that do not necessarily cost you money but will set you off in the right direction to achieve your goals. Here are a few ideas:

1.  Always put yourself in the customer’s shoes, think - what are they looking for and how do they usually buy it?

2.  What is your competitive edge?  How are you standing out from the competition, what makes you different? Again, from market research you can identify if there are any gaps in the market that you can fill for example out of hours’ service, flexible hours, mobile service?

3.  Write articles and get them published, often local newspapers will publish an article if there is something newsworthy. If you have a "hook" and a good photograph send it in.  Write letters in response to articles and make sure you include your business name.  Offer to be a speaker at an event, this may take you out of your comfort zone but you will benefit from getting your name out there and making new contacts.  

business-pitch

Speaking at an event could be a great way to get your name out there.

4.  Talk about the benefits of using your products and service to solve problems for customers at every opportunity.  Remember this can relate back to your competitive edge or talk about time/cost savings to your potential customer.

5.  Offer free "taster" sessions, consultations, demonstrations, if people can see/taste/experience what you do, the more they are more likely to buy. The dance school that puts on demonstrations, the baker who offers free samples and even the consultant who gives 30 minutes free advice are all allowing potential customers to buy with added confidence.

6.  Don’t be shy if someone says something good about you.  Ask for testimonials and then publicise them on your website or via social media.  Someone else saying you are great at what you do is worth its weight in gold.

7.  Social Media, make sure you have a professional profile and find the ones that will work best for you, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube can all pay great dividends.  Use them wisely and ensure you update them regularly not for spamming about your business but engaging in conversations so people begin to know, like and importantly trust you. Using Social Media for overt selling is unlikely to work so look to engage and provide tips & information – it’s a discussion medium.

8.  Whilst social media is great, nothing beats meeting people face to face, people buy from people they know, like and trust.  There are many formal networks that you can join but equally informal groups meet and share knowledge.  Importantly these people then become your advocates and once they have built up confidence in you will happily refer potential clients to you.

networking-image

Networking is a great way to meet potential advocates 

9.  Make sure you have a good e-mail signature, include contact details and even a link to something you wish to highlight at the end.  Auto-signature makes sure you never forget to do this.

10. Make sure you have a decent quality business card, ensure the right information is on there and that it’s consistent with the other items of stationery you have including website and social media. Use both sides of the card, contact information on one side and what you do on the other side.

Lastly understand that propagation is likely to take longer that you think so plan ahead. Whatever marketing activity you undertake though the important thing is to test and measure.  It can take time for the message to get through so don't give up too easily.

Start your business today by downloading your free start-up guide!

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Summary

Mike Everitt talks to us about how set setup a marketing plan your start-up business without budget.