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Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

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This Space is For Sale

Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

Temitope Omole
marketing on a shoe-string budget

Beyond having a good idea, startups must be strategic to capture mindshare in a busy marketplace.

By Temitope Omole

Marketing for a Fintech Startup

Building a start-up goes beyond having a good idea. Ideas, they say, are a dime a dozen. Most founders find this out the hard way when it comes time to raise funding or find investors.

The real magic happens when you can grab and sustain the attention of a market for your big idea or product, and this is where marketing comes in.

Too few start-ups place the necessary degree of importance on brand building and marketing.

This is the ‘secret sauce’ that takes a product from being functional and short term to being a daily necessity – just ask the guys at Apple.

Marketing Strategies on a Budget

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Well, I don’t have the kind of money Apple does, so I definitely can’t play in that pond.”

Quite the contrary, effective marketing can happen without spending your entire OpEx for the year on advertising campaigns.

Here are a few things that can help you get that ever elusive TOMA (Top of Mind Awareness) that all marketers and brand managers seem to constantly chase after:

  • Define your brand identity:

Building brand identity is akin to developing your personal style. Your personal style goes beyond putting a shirt over some slacks or a blouse over a skirt.

There are certain things you choose to communicate about yourself to the world through the way you present yourself, before any verbal communication is made.

You could choose to be seen as serious or laid back or free-spirited or trendy. Establishing any of these sentiments takes thought and a level of attentiveness and consistency that is crucial for a new business.

So before you run off to create a logo and splash it all over the internet, please stop and thoughtfully consider these questions; i) how would I describe my company if asked to do so in five words or less? ii) what are the core values of the company? iii) who is my ideal customer? iv) how would I like them to perceive me? v) what difference do I hope to make in the world with this product or service?

Providing answers to these questions forces you to think beyond just designing something snazzy to make stickers out of, it also helps you build a narrative around your business that your customers can relate to when they see your mark.

Find your voice:

Once you create your visual identity, and establish your target audience, it’s time to differentiate yourself from the pack. Most start-ups rely on slight variations in product offering to establish differentiation.

While this is great, sustaining this becomes more and more difficult, the longer you stay in an industry.

So how does one differentiate for the long term? By establishing yourself as a subject matter expert. In today’s era of social media, where content is king, content marketing has become the central focus for companies on a shoestring budget.

Whether your content is written, video, graphical, or musical, creating engaging and compelling content that speaks directly to the needs and pain points of your target audience is a sure-fire way to gain their trust and eventually their loyalty while also building affinity for your brand by sharing who you are and what makes you tick.

Build alliances:

Building trust with customers takes time but for a new start-up looking for swift dominance or even just proof of concept, time is a luxury. A good workaround for this is to build “trust-by-proxy”.

By this I mean, align yourself with other brands that your customers trust – that are not in direct competition with your product – and let them do your bidding for you.

For instance, a FOREX trading start-up may choose to partner with a travel planning company like Emirates Holidays to provide easy access to FOREX for their customers going on vacation to foreign countries.

The holiday company gains customer loyalty based on the perception of this as a value added service and the FOREX trading start-up gets an instant marketplace, just like that.

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Marketing Mistakes Startups Make

Generally speaking, start-ups tend to focus 98% of their energy on the product to the detriment of many other areas, paramount of which is developing a strong identity and core values that resonate with customers.

Core values are the heart of your business and as customers interact with your product, what will set you apart is a keen and clear knowledge of who you are and what problem you are here to solve.

This is a surer way to garner support and loyalty from the customers that will identify with that narrative.

Another mistake is not paying enough attention to the voice of the customer to inform product enhancement. All too often, the focus tends to be inward and many assumptions are made in product design whereas the most optimal way to ensure you retain the attention and loyalty of the customer is to create an atmosphere of “co-creation” such that feedback is sought out at every single opportunity and touch point, analysed and implemented all with the client in mind. You will find that this creates a sense of ownership with the customer that keeps them coming back.

Focusing all your efforts (and budget) on social media ‘vanity’ metrics is also a bad idea. Metrics like the number of followers and likes per post are nice to have and a nice pat on the back to the community manager of the page, however the pertinent question is, are these resulting in direct conversion? It is absolutely crucial to maintain a presence on social media to build brand awareness, but it is even more important to differentiate your goals per channel and allocate resources based on the channels most likely to provide the best return on investment.

Building a Formidable Customer Base 

Become the brand that is consistently there for the customer, not just in words but indeed. In today’s super competitive world, where everyone makes grandiose promises about the value of their offering, it is essential that the customer actually feels it when you make a quality promise.

It’s like a friend who keeps promising to meet you for coffee and never shows up or shows up once out of every five times they promise to.

Sooner or later, the trust begins to fade, and you no longer make yourself available to that friend. This is exactly how a business must view their relationship with their customers.

So, if the customer’s experience of you contradicts your brand promise, you will end up losing them forever and not just them, but everyone within their network because as we know bad news (negative feedback) travels fast. Make excellent customer experience your priority and watch those referrals skyrocket!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.

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