According to a study by Harvard Business School, 75% of venture-backed startups end up failing.
And as you can imagine, that rate is likely significantly higher for startups who are trying to bootstrap their way to launching a successful business.
So, if you want to start an online store or any other kind of business, you need to not only have the willingness to push through the challenges but also use all the tools at your disposal to make sure that you’re giving yourself the best shot at making it.
Luckily, there are ways to improve your chances of success.
If you can develop a comprehensive and effective marketing strategy, you will be well on your way to gaining the upper hand over more established competitors and carving out a place for your company in the marketplace.
So, in this article, we’ll explore some of the most effective ways to market your startup online, which you can start implementing as soon as today.
Figure Out Your Core Audience
Before you can begin working on specific marketing strategies, you need to figure out precisely who you want to reach, as that will dictate most of the decisions that you make afterward.
As a startup, you need to maximize every marketing dollar that you spend, and that will be all but impossible if you don’t have a crystal clear understanding of who your ideal customers are, how to engage them, where to reach them, and how to position your brand against the competition.
But how can you get started with developing your customer avatar?
Well, it all begins with research.
You need to dig deep and figure out the specific demographics of who your audience is, where they are from, what’s their job title, what are their biggest problems, how do they browse the web, and anything else that you find relevant.
Only by understanding who are the people that you’re trying to reach and why your product or service can help them solve a core problem, can you start seeing the best opportunities for reaching them and getting through to them.
Having a solid understanding of your market is crucial for any startup or SaaS company, as it can be the biggest advantage that you have over more established competitors.
In fact, if you’d looked at some of the most successful companies, you would likely notice that they all share a crystal-clear idea or who they’re targeting and how their product can help solve a crucial need of their audience.
Start a Referral Program
Even though there are numerous ways to promote your business online, word-of-mouth remains as effective as ever before and can help you achieve exponential growth and rapidly increase your SaaS company valuation.
The reason why word-of-mouth is so effective is simple – most consumers today understand that they can’t fully trust a company’s claims, so they are always looking for social proof and positive experiences by others to verify that a company is legitimate and can be trusted.
Problem is, for a company that’s just starting out, getting customers to spread the word about their positive experiences can be a challenge, especially if you don’t yet have a long list of clients to begin with.
That’s where a referral program can be so useful.
With the help of a referral program, you can incentivize the referral process and turn your very best customers into your sales team who will be vouching for your products and services all over the web, as well as for their friends and colleagues.
And since they are already your customers, they will have a deep understanding of what your products can do and will be able to communicate why your product is the best better than you could yourself.
But how to develop a successful referral program?
Well, although the process may seem complicated and technical, especially when it comes to offering incentives and tracking the results of your referrals, there are actually numerous solutions that can help streamline the entire process and allow you to set everything up in just a couple of days, if not quicker.
By reviewing some of the best referral software solutions that are available, you can pick an option that meets your requirements and budget, and have it up and running in no time.
One thing to remember when setting up a referral program is to not hesitate about offering valuable incentives for the customers that they bring – whether it’s a percentage of the sales, discounts to your products, or exclusive benefits, make sure that it is relevant and motivating enough for people to make an effort.
Focus on Email Marketing
It’s impossible to imagine succeeding as a startup without the help of email marketing – it remains the best way to generate leads for your business and is the only way to ensure that you don’t lose the majority of the prospects that stumble upon your site.
In fact, email marketing generates a staggering $32 return on every dollar that you spend, so when you’re operating on a tight budget and trying to grow your startup, ignoring email marketing is simply not an option.
But while there are plenty of reasons why you should start building an email list, developing an effective strategy is not an easy task.
The inboxes of your best customers are flooded with promotional emails from dozens of companies, so if you don’t have a method for standing out, chances are that your emails aren’t going to be read.
So, how can you make your email marketing strategy stand out?
Well, if you took the time doing your target audience research, you can use that knowledge to craft relevant messages that draw attention and get people to take action.
If you can hit on the biggest pain points that your audience has, it won’t matter how many emails flood their inboxes – your message will get through to the very core of their needs and will draw attention every time.
Another critical aspect of a successful email marketing strategy is being consistent. You need to set clear expectations when people are signing up and make sure that you consistently match those expectations throughout the entire time that you’re sending out emails.
For instance, if you promise to send weekly newsletters that educate and inform your readers, you need to stick to that schedule and not start bombarding them with daily promotional offers, as that will not only be a disruption but will actually cause a negative reaction and will prompt people to unsubscribe or at least ignore your emails in the future.
Finally, you must always be looking for ways to improve your campaigns – carefully track and analyze the performance of each email and test out different approaches to see what your audience responds to best.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different formats, subject lines, visual elements, and any other variables that you can think of, as you may find that your assumptions weren’t correct and that an unusual approach delivers the best results.
Use Influencer Marketing
If you’ve been following the trends of online marketing over the past few years, you’ve probably heard about influencer marketing and all that it can offer businesses that use it correctly.
With influencer marketing, you can cut to the very core of what online audiences are looking for and give your product instant credibility in the eyes of your very best prospects.
But what’s the process behind influencer marketing, anyway?
Well, the premise is relatively simple – you need to search for influencers, or social media figures, that have a following in your niche.
If you’re a SaaS company, that could be a marketing expert who shares valuable insights, and if you’re an ecommerce clothing brand, it could be an Instagram celebrity who showcases various brands and accessories on his or her page.
Once you identify a candidate that fits your brand and your goals, you need to reach out to him and ask if he’d agree to promote your products.
More experienced influencers usually have pricing plans for promoting brands, but if they are smaller and less established, you may need to negotiate an arrangement that suits you both.
When you agree on the terms, you will need to work together to develop a campaign that both matches their voice and the expectations of their audience while simultaneously positioning your product in the best light and enticing people to click through to your offer.
The power of using influencer marketing lies in the huge potential of quickly making a lot of sales – once a post goes live, you can often expect thousands of prospective buyers to flood your website, which can offer incredible ROI if you choose an effective strategy for the campaign.
One thing you need to consider is that since you’ll be expecting such an influx of visitors, you need to be prepared. Make sure that your site can handle a surge in traffic, and go through an app store optimization process to ensure that your app doesn’t break down at the worst possible time.