5 Ways To Market Your Startup With Nearly Zero Budget

5 Ways To Market Your Startup With Nearly Zero Budget

So you’re ready with a startup idea and are raring to take the next step forward. Pat yourself on your back for being courageous enough to give wings to your dreams and deviating from the sheltered path adopted by 95% of your contemporaries!

It is no mean feat  — especially when the stakes are stacked against you.

Anyway, back to what we’re discussing.

What should be your next step after coming up with a potentially great startup idea? 

Well, it could be anything depending on what your priorities are and how serious you are about your new venture.

Yes, there’s the need to validate your idea further by taking feedback from business consultants or better still — fellow entrepreneurs (as they’ve been in the same boat already and know what’s it like to make it to the other end) — perfecting your pitches, focusing on funding strategies, eyeing a beta launch etc.

Now, don’t get us wrong. All these are perfectly helpful and necessary steps.

But at the core of your startup idea should be a decision to keep things as simple as possible amid all the clutter, chaos and confusion.

For starters, focus on enhancing the quality of your product and make it so awesome that its awesomeness becomes the differentiator. Your potential customers should find your product so damn good that they keep coming back to you and spread the word around.

Difference between a listed product and a product that sells is the same as that between a Copywriter and Marketer.

If you’re a product company, follow the rule of 5 W’s – to create seductive and informative copy that will motivate your customers to click “buy”.

Rule of 5 W’s

This should be the starting point of your next step, really.

But let’s face it. Any product or service, no matter how brilliant it sounds on paper, needs to reach people who’re going to benefit from it. Only then will it give your business the oxygen it needs to survive and grow. 

In other words, you need a starting point to get to that starting point — to convince your audience about why they should care about your idea in the first place.

Will it make a real difference in their lives? More importantly, how do they know that it will? 

Pay attention to the second question as it holds the key to your business’s potentially limitless expansion. It also gives you a cue on what your next move should be — spreading the word through the wonderful vehicle of marketing.

Not just any marketing, but content marketing. And not because it prefixes ‘content’ before ‘marketing.’

After all, it’s not without a reason that it has captivated the imagination of almost all leading brands worldwide. According to research, 75% of marketers are increasing their spend on content marketing and 70% of the audience would rather hear about a company via articles and not advertisements.

The fact is this: content marketing almost always works, when done right. It is also way cheaper than traditional marketing (by as much as 62% according to Neil Patel), and generates about 3X as many leads with a much lower CAC. 

This means more leads at lesser costs! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of free inexpensive channels by which you can create and share content to a broader audience.

In fact, content marketing is the only approach that allows you to expand your business using zero spend. This makes it a godsend opportunity for startups that neither have the resources nor the experience to create and market the sheer volume of content that their larger counterparts do.

All you need is: 

  1. An internet connection
  2. The ability and willingness to feel the pain points of your potential customers as your own and meet them right where they are.
  3. An unending conviction in your business idea.

Beyond that, content marketing can be easily inter-weaved into practically any online strategy to amplify its results. 

  1. Keen to get more people to sign up to your email-list? It is content that impels them to act on the CTA. 
  2. Hit a deadlock on your next social media post? Sharing your recent blog post could be one simple yet mighty effective strategy. Again, content rules the roost. 
  3. Need to hone your SEO tactics? Relevant, timely and actionable content helps drive traffic and fortifies your SEO reach. 
  4. Seeking new ways to onboard your SaaS sign-ups and give critical pointers for expansion? Do it in style with content! 
  5. Want to connect with influencers? Speaking about them in/through your content gives you another happy reason to reach out to viewers on social media!

In a nutshell, content can and should become the foundation of your other strategies, including driving traffic to your website. It is an effective way of cementing your brand in the mind space of your audience by developing an authoritative voice. It informs your audience that you’re a desirable business to follow because you care about the reputation of not just your own brand, but also about your consumers (through their association with you).

In addition, it helps you maximize existing established audiences. As a case in point, the first 1,200 clients of Design Pickle were sealed through content — more specifically blog posts.

But you can’t just write a blog and expect a miracle, in the form of reach and virality. You have to wear a bunch of hats – content writer, editor, marketer, SEO specialist, customer service manager, among others.

Here are 5 things to do for your blog, before and after you hit “publish” – to get maximum reach:

5 Point Checklist for Your Blogpost

According to founder Russ Perry, a large part of this phenomenal growth was owed to influential blogs. He points out that this idea gave him the impetus to keep generating content as he was answerable to his guest posters.

The best way for your startup to maximize this compelling strategy is selecting blogs which have a large audience and more importantly, are part of your (identified) target audience. Thankfully, you don’t need to base your plans on some of the biggest ones out there; there are many who may not be as big, but have a good, established audience base that you can look at.

Finally, as a startup, you have a great opportunity to show the way and lead the pack.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, the number of startups who’re happy with their content or with the effectiveness of their strategy are steadily increasing.

If you think about it calmly, you’ll agree that you do have room to lead the way or at least, be a forerunner. Look at the small size of your business as your biggest strength. Think about this: As a tiny player, you can be agile enough to devise strategy and take decisions on the fly.

Furthermore, you stand a better chance of building long-term relationships with your audience outside of ‘big business’ anonymity.

Joe Pulizzi from Content Marketing Institute agrees, “It’s so simple, yet so hard for even mid-sized companies to do this. With financial expectations on a quarterly basis at best, few larger companies have the patience to build a loyal relationship with an audience. In addition, budgets are set up as time-based campaigns, where short-term objectives take priority. That means the business tries to monetize the content program before the audience is ready (a big mistake)”.

There you go. As a startup, content marketing could be your single most effective growth channel. There is more than enough evidence to suggest that it is one of the best ways (if not the best) to help startups lead the high-stake pack.

More and more brands are realizing that content marketing affects every digital strategy they’re leveraging. But more than anything, it rekindles your audience’s faith in the source of information they value most — you.

Do you integrate content marketing in your growth strategy? Will you use it more proactively?

Write to hello@thewordsedge.com

War On Intelligence : Who’s In Charge In 2050 — AI Or Humans?

War On Intelligence : Who’s In Charge In 2050 — AI Or Humans?

When Elon Musk talks, everyone tends to take a serious listen.

Little wonder that his mounting worries about the perils of artificial intelligence have garnered universal attention.

Musk joins a growing list of renowned scientists and intellectuals (Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates) who have voiced their concerns about this issue. Scary predictions conjuring up scarier images of an insurmountable intelligent entity that is hell bent on exterminating the entire human race.

Perhaps he’s right. Perhaps we may be confronted with a situation where intelligent and self-learning robots with evil intentions will pose a threat to humanity.

He even recommends people sharpen their brains to remain competitive in an AI-driven market. For now though, the reality is this:

We can barely power AI-driven robots to climb stairs or pack products, let alone liquefy and navigate through rubble-strewn hallways.

The possibility of any existential threat lies in the womb of a very distant future and most concerns surrounding its alarming imminence appear to be a tad bit optimistic.

So does that mean we’re safe and don’t need to worry or think about the possible implications of AI?

Well, not quite.

Let’s take a download on areas where AI and Humans can possibly take a calibrated approach.

  • Jobs:

AI-enabled automation

Let’s face it: AI-enabled automation is set to drastically disrupt the current status quo of the economy. From time to time, we hear stories that AI is going to steal millions of jobs by automating human-performed tasks.

As per a recent study, AI has the potential of making nearly 40% of all jobs redundant by 2030.

But here’s the good news — it’s not happening anytime soon.

Also, history is replete with examples (the industrial revolution being a case in point) that any disrupting technology ends up creating more jobs in the long run even if that means causing some intense short-term pain.

The fact that human workforce will be required to manage, regulate and enhance AI technologies is a clear indicator that new jobs will make way for old ones, which will have a cascading effect in terms of creating new opportunities.

  • Weapons of Mass Destruction:

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Now, countries have and do leverage futuristic technologies to make powerful drones that not only fly with an amazing degree of autonomy, but also make intuitive use of imagery and other sensory data to hit its target.

In fact, Musk famously commented,

“I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react, because it seems so ethereal.”

Probably he does have a point.

But again, nothing major has transpired, that seems to suggest AI-based weaponry is set to make human lives hostile.

Now, we know some people worry about what would happen if we let machines make automated decisions. This would inadvertently make AI a glaringly dangerous proposition.

But here’s the point. As long as our human brain is in charge, it is likely to undergo system evolutions and concede to strong mechanisms to counteract potential mishaps.

  • AGI (Artificial General Intelligence):

Artificial General Intelligence

Musk also noted,

“Robots will be able to do everything better than us.”

This again suggests that he believes in the imminence of AGI.

Philosophically speaking, AGI is a possibility because of the theory about the universality of computation in which, everything that a physical object is capable of doing (in accordance with the laws of physics) can be replicated arbitrarily by a computer-made program — as long as it has enough time and memory.

A 19th-century mathematician named Charles Babbage was the first one to explore its wide-ranging ramifications.

Yet, the fact remains that AGI is not only improbable in the near future, but also has a proven track record of failure, at least for now.

There’s no denying the fact that scientists are in the process of creating intelligent and self-learning robots who recognize patterns, base their decisions on those patterns and ‘unlearn’ what they’ve previously learned. This can have them enter unfamiliar territories and enjoy a stronger influence on our lives in terms of speed and efficiency.

But, here’s the thing:

Artificial intelligence can indeed solve numerous problems, but it is nowhere close to replicating the human brain fully — anytime soon.

We’re nowhere close to building a replica of the human brain yet, and that’s a good thing because it clearly demonstrates who’s in charge.

The way most programs or even robots (virtual assistants) are made, it’s difficult to foresee that they’ll be making totally independent decisions — because they do not and cannot function like human brains. In other words, it’s unlikely that existing architectures will become what we popularly call “intelligent.”

Yes, AI can beat world champions at a game of chess, navigate driverless cars, interpret tons of massive data and optimize internet searches. But it cannot conceive, plan or adapt like a human brain does.

Also, even if AI does threaten our jobs, it won’t be due to the fact that data scientists have created robots that have sharper brains than ours. In fact, advancements in artificial intelligence are intrinsically designed to solve problems or perform specific tasks such as making musical recommendations on Pandora or analyzing driving habits. However, we’re long way off from when AGI begins to simulate a human in dangerous ways.

Oren Etzioni, the CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, notes, 

“General Intelligence is what people do. We don’t have a computer that can function with the capabilities of a six year old, or even a three year old, and so we’re very far from general intelligence. There’s no dialogue, there’s really no background knowledge and as a result…the system’s misunderstanding of what we say is often downright comical.” 

In all fairness, it is not that Musk is against AI and its efficacy per se, as suggested by Stuart Russell, principal at Cal’s Center for Human-Compatible AI.

He asserts,

“First, Musk isn’t against AI. After all, he funds a lot of it both within Tesla and elsewhere [OpenAI, DeepMind]. He just wants people to recognize that it has downsides, possibly very large [downsides], in the future, and to work on avoiding those. You can be in favor of nuclear power while still arguing for research on [reactor] containment. In fact, inadequate attention to containment at Chernobyl destroyed the entire nuclear industry worldwide, possibly forever. So let’s not keep presenting these false dichotomies.”

Maybe the takeaway is that not just businesses but the world at large needs to prepare for another revolution in the making, not because of the imminent threat it poses but for future in-roads in collaboration. Afterall, they say, if you can’t beat them, join them.

As always, the way forward is figuring out a palpable middle ground — a melting point of different ideas and possibilities.

All said and done, businesses would do well to keep pace with burgeoning AI advances. As programs are becoming more adept at performing tasks (and at a much greater scale & pace) that were previously done by humans, they must wake up and smell the coffee.

Companies and in particular, marketers must keep an open mind and make AI their click-bait medium for drawing enhanced customer experiences.

Need a savvy marketing team to drive your online rankings?

Write to hello@thewordsedge.com

How To Create A Content Strategy?

How To Create A Content Strategy?

Before answering this, we must ask 2 questions:

1) What exactly is a content strategy?

2) Do we really need one?

A content strategy lets you define the role your content will play as part of your overall brand building strategy. To create a content strategy that actually works, you must first define a content territory that is strategically relevant for your businesses.

 This is paramount and must lie at the intersection of your unique value proposition and your audience’s pain points.

Your content strategy will influence what your audience thinks of your business. It will not only determine the topics you’re associated with, but also decide when, how and where you link with your prospects.

The idea is to provide your audience with a compelling value-added proposition that gets them to become repeat buyers — or in other words, earn their loyalty.

With regards to the second question, it’s a no-brainer and the answer is a RESOUNDING YES!

Studies tell us that brands which produce a well documented, actionable content strategy tend to do better than those that don’t. They drive more ROI from their content marketing efforts.

Getting Started 

Depending on your brand’s purpose and identity, you’ll need to find different ways of getting them to care about your content and come one step closer to you. While this may vary from organization to organization, consider incorporating these three themes that will be consistent across all content types.

Educate: Help your audience know something useful that they can apply right away to solve a problem in their lives.

Entertain. Surprise them, make them smile, laugh and eventually care enough to share with their friends family, colleagues and the rest.

Inspire. Tell them emotional and relatable stories— that they want to be a part of — and let them know how important they are to you, even beyond generating business.

You need to understand two key facets inside out – to effectively target your users and

produce content that meets their needs:

  • Business goals & objectives
  • Target audience

Ask yourself these 5 questions: 

  1. What are your business goals? 
  2. What does your audience typically speak about and what do they want from you? 
  3. What action would you want your audience to take when they come face to face with your content? 
  4. Which channels do they use most often? 
  5. What type of content must you create to reach out to people at every stage of the buying cycle?

The Buying conundrum 

As marketers, we understand the importance of tailoring the same message differently to meet our audience at their exact point of need.

But why is this important?

Today, buyers are past 66% of the purchasing journey before they really decide to contact a sales person.

In other words, your prospective customer is going online to get educated — either from you or your competitors.

Don’t leave your customers to connect the dots. Make it damn easy for them.

When did you hear about a website (or an app or a form) being too easy to understand?

Yes, never.

People who are already familiar with your brand or product and are having trouble deciding whether or not they need to consider buying from you, need to be given a different message than those who’re just getting to know you better.

It’s about being valuable through the art of adding value.

But what on earth is ‘value?’ 

According to research, only 16% of the audience is ready to buy.

What about the remaining 84%? They are waiting for you to make them ready to buy.

Forrester Research tells us that the brand that gets in early and helps provide a clear solution to their customer wins 74% of the time.

Value lies at the melting point of all sales and marketing initiatives. It can be defined as:

Perceived relevant benefit − total cost of ownership. 

But to be more relevant, you must first understand what is actually important to your audience.

Here, the customer would perceive value in terms of how soon you can get them the growth they are seeking.

If content is king, perception is his battle ground, considering 68% of organizations lose business due to perceived indifference — which means customers think you don’t care about them even if they’re all you care about!

Adding value in content 

A whopping 90% of content created by B2B marketers is never used by the sales team and 43% of content marketing efforts don’t bring in the results.

Here’s a checklist for your B2B content strategy so YOU don’t fall into these numbers:

B2B content strategy

Thankfully, B2B Buyers generally look at 3–5 pieces of content before talking to a salesperson.

This means you have plenty of scope to add value in your content and tilt the buying factors in your favor.

A good place to begin is to map out useful content based on different stages of the buyer’s journey, and figure out how your content can be plugged in effectively.

This cycle can be broken down into four stages:

Discovery — This is the stage at which the customer is just getting to know your company and figuring out if they need your service.

Research — At this stage, the audience is partially convinced that your product might overcome their problem.

Validation — Here, they begin to explore other options (your competitors) and start narrowing down their choices to zero in on one service provider.

Buying — This is the last stage when your customer finally takes a call on who to buy from.

Buying

It’s best to engage your customers via blogging and/or social media at the first stage of discovery or awareness — on your own website as well as on others.

Take your blog to the next level by comparing and analysing content marketing data. The following 4 things were found to be most important for launching a competitive content marketing strategy.

competitive content marketing strategy

However, that strategy may not work at the research and validation stages, as chances are that your audience is looking for credible evidence about why they should do business with you.

At this stage, you may want to look at producing slightly more in-depth content like case studies, white papers, webinars or eBooks. And of course, you can make your social media interactions more meaningful — especially on platforms like LinkedIn or Quora where you can stand tall – as a thought leader and influencer.

Why?

Because this gives your audience an implicit message that you mean business and are also knowledgeable about your subject, that you can shape opinions and influence buying choices.

As your customers begin to realize that (this will not happen in a fortnight though), they’ll slowly start to invest their trust in you because you’re now giving them a valid reason to take their attention from competition — they would rather buy from someone who is an expert and cares about their personal needs than someone who appears too sales-driven and focuses more on making exaggerated claims (style) than on driving value (substance).

Measuring value

A useful indicator of finding out how valuable your content has been is to use a win/loss analysis.

This practically forces you to know why you did or did not bag the deal. 

When your customers say that the price is too high, you can be pretty sure that the actual reason why they did not buy from you was because they didn’t see the hidden value in your offering.

Put simply, if you DO NOT create enough value for your customers (your product or service) they will begin to seek value with regards to price.

Therefore, the foremost step in creating a content strategy is to understand what it is that your customers value most — price or a substantial benefit for which they would be happy to pay that price.

Want to take your content strategy to the next level?

Write to hello@thewordsedge.com