As an SEO professional, it’s always a balancing act, to work with clients that have sufficient budget to be able to afford your services and will likely see a return on investment (ROI) for their business by working with you.
Nothing feels worse than rejecting a client due to insufficient budget to invest in a SEO campaign.
As SEO requires a considerable investment to realise gains, it also requires a medium or high life time value of a client. Ie cafes or hairdressers don’t typically make good candidates for SEO clients!
This brings me to the often challenging scenario of working with startups. A start-up is typically pursuing fast growth, but in the initial phases, they are often bootstrapped and as such have very limited marketing budget
Pair that with an SEO investment that frequently takes many months (or years) to deliver, it’s often unsustainable for startups that aren’t funded or profitable to invest significantly in SEO.
Based on my experience, working with some early stage startup founders, with a low budget for marketing, below are the (mostly digital) marketing techniques that have delivered the best growth.
Expand your network
Tell people you meet what you do. Tell them all about your start-up and what problem it solves
Join networking groups
Conferences are a great place to meet potential clients and complementary businesses.
Ask for referrals
Ask your friends, family and existing clients to provide referrals.
Partner with complementary businesses
Some of the best leads I’ve seen have come from complementary businesses. Eg. an email automation start-up receiving leads from email hosting company.
Sponsor local organisations
It’s a good idea (more so for local businesses) to sponsor local sporting & community organisations, eg your local rugby league or baseball club.
Google My Business / Bing Places
Depending on the type of business, Google My Business/Bing Places are the best value online marketing platforms for startups. Contrary to popular belief, these platforms are not only important for local businesses, but are a great resource for online businesses also.
Related to the above point (as reviews are integrated in Google My Business), ask clients to review your business. This provides enormous social proof to prospective clients.
Like reviews, client testimonials are an excellent form of social proof, that help potential clients the push they need to “get over the line”. Testimonials are best published on your website.
Setup a website
Setting up a website is one of the most fundamental marketing aspects a start-up should take. Without a website, how will you explain what your start-up does and the problem it solves? Even if the website is used as only a “digital business card” it’s extremely important investment and can be done at zero cost if need be.
Create a blog
As part of building a website, it’s important to include blog functionality, so you can update potential clients with more information about your start-up. Long-form content is great for blogs and will assist your content to be found in search engines. It’s essential to write articles that demonstrate your authority in the industry.
Claim your business’ social media accounts. Especially those where your prospective clients congregate. Generally, that’s LinkedIn for B2B, Instagram for B2C and Facebook/Twitter for a little bit of both.
Post regularly on social media, updating the profiles with company updates, pictures and promoting blog posts on your website. Also share other interesting articles on the web, but be sure to summarise their content with a few points.
Join and participate in groups- Answer questions on niche Facebook and Linked In groups as well as Reddit and Quora.
Boost posts- It can often be a good idea to boost “successful” social media posts to increase engagement.
Social Media Marketing- Try running some cheap campaigns across your defined social media channels. This can be great for company branding & visibility.
If you have a captive audience of email subscribers or social media followers, conducting webinars that shows potential clients the benefits of your startup can be extremely valuable.
Pay Per Click (PPC Marketing)
Running a Google Ads campaign can get you results fast. Test a low budget PPC campaign to assess viability. Google usually offers free credit of $50-150 if you sign up to a new account to the first time.
If you already have a marketing list of email subscribers, email marketing is an excellent mechanism to promote your start-up
Add your business to a list of web directories. This assists with local search and may result in clients finding your business.
In summary, these are just some of the low cost marketing strategies a founder can use to promote their start-up. There are literally thousands of marketing techniques that can be employed, with the above list being the ones I’ve seen used successfully. I hope this has been of some benefit to your start-up!
Have any better suggestions? Need more info? Comment below!