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My Top Five Marketing Tips For Startups

Make no doubt about, there are no marketing tips that fits all. Marketing works on a case by case basis. No two companies are the same and some forms of marketing tips work better with some companies more than others.

However, I have decided to write down my own personal list of online and offline marketing tips. I want to make it crystal clear from the beginning that not all of these marketing tips are necessarily relevant to your company.

As it is always the case with any type of marketing tips, you should think about – and consider – each tip, and ask yourself: “is it a good idea for my company?” Having said this, you should not let your fear stop you from trying out new ideas and tips. Let’s get going:

1. Don’t Contact the Press Unprofessionally

Is contacting the press really worth it? If you”re an on-the-go food truck then maybe not. If you”re a software developer or a social enterprise, then it might be worth-considering for the free exposure. However, when contacting the press, one of the most idiotic things I see people do often is consistently messaging them via their public Facebook page. Well first of, unless it’s an incredible small publication, the side of the business that manages the social media is completely different and unrelated to the side that decides which stories get published.

Always look for the appropriate way to contact the press. Most of the time their websites have contact emails. Your main priority should be to find emails they have set aside for press releases. If that fails, contact the editor (note that some publications have “letters to the editor” emails, ignore these).

If you can’t find any or aren’t sure of the appropriate section to contact, then consider sending an old-fashioned postal letter to the publication. It goes without saying that you should normally look at the very bottom of the website for a plain text link that says “contact us” link. Sometimes this may bring you to customer service/subscription help, but most of the times you”ll be brought to a page where you can contact them about your business.

2. Be “In Your Face” to the Press, But Don’t Be a Douche

When emailing/writing a snail mail to the press, you should be upfront about it. You should try to shove things in their face without being rude. Here’s an example of what not to do:

Hello I’m directing a play. If you want, I can send you free tickets for you to come down and see it. I could also send you the plot outline.

The press member will not reply because A: you didn’t say anything about the play, and whoever you”re contacting might forget about the email and will never follow you up on getting tickets, instead try this:

Hello, I’m directing a play about the struggles of a middle class family in Great Depression America. Attached to this email I have included free tickets for you to print out and use for every show. I have also attached promotional material on the play.

That approach is a good example of “being in your face” about it. You didn’t asked the editor if he wanted tickets, you gave him tickets. You’ve attached every show so he/she is unlikely to have any problems with attending.

Now the reason this works is because the media is dumb, it seems cruel. But the media is dumb because they don’t have time to think. They work to a deadline, the moment they finish publishing an issue or story they need to get straight to work on the next one. A weekly newspaper or monthly magazine or even a web publication all have very strict deadlines.

They need to get things written up and published as quick as possible no questions asked. The reason the former example doesn’t work is because they won’t bother responding to your email because even if they were interested in your business they have a deadline creeping over them and you could take a week to reply for all they know. They”re not willing to take the risk.

3. Google Ads Are a Gamble

Based on my experience, Google Ads are a huge gamble. One thing I can’t stress enough is to set a limit on how much money you want to spend. Google has this feature where you can tell them not to spend more than X amount of your money on ads.

The problem is just because people click on your ad, that doesn’t mean they”ve given you any money yet. One specific example I still remember is when we tried a small experiment with AdWords at a firm I worked at, and we definitely got the interest of many internet users, and spent all of our ads budget. We didn’t get a single new client, instead our inbox was flooded with people begging for jobs at our company. (Advise you to read this article here listing 10 things to make AdWords fail.)

4. Think Outside the Box, Don’t Overkill a Good Idea

Many companies prefer doing viral marketing stunts. A few years ago a firm based in the Netherlands asked me to organize a Smartphone-based “Treasure Hunt”. It took me about a month to plan the entire thing according to the country’s regulations and to make it happen. The mobile game didn’t work well if your Smartphone was outdated, and it didn’t even work on iPhones (which had a large market share in Holland at the time, instantly alienating a large portion of our audience)

Now the idea was definitely outside “the box”! However, it was incredibly ambitious to do an “Amsterdam-wide treasure hunt.” We eventually scaled it down to the radius of about a few blocks. Even then we had to scale it back further from being graffiti art with QR codes to posters of QR codes stuck on telephone poles due to the fact that permits were expensive and that most homeowners would be unhappy with a large QR code painted on the side of their house.

By the end, we just wasted about a month and a half of our time and €500 on an viral marketing stunt that gave us exactly 2 new customers.

5. Be Wise

You see it all the time. Many companies try to market their products and services one way or the other, in spite of having a massive hole in their logic, they end up insulting a group of people or making their company look horrible. Some ideas are stupid to begin with, and you could spot them from a mile. Like a company naming an energy drink after an illegal substance!

I’ve talked before about Qwikster and what a marketing hell that was. The idea was to conceal a 60% price hike but rather they indirectly advertised it in full swing as well as helped Redbox and Verizon make a partnership to soak up ex-netflix-ers outraged by the price hike.

It gets even worse when Pepsi decided to host a competition, whereas on the top of each Pepsi caps there was a 3-digit code and offered the equivalent of $40,000 in Philippines Pesos to whoever got the winning number. The winning number was 349, yet they’ve printed that number on over 800,000 bottle caps. After they refused to pay out the money, the country rioted against Pepsi forcing it to put up a barbed wire gate on it’s bottling plant.

All of these mistakes were avoidable. The energy drink company clearly knew that the it would get viciously attacked by the media if they named it that (which was probably the plan all along) and vendors might refuse to stack the product. Netflix should have known the media would call them out on Qwikster and publicize the price hike. Pepsi should have kept track of how many bottles had what numbers on them.

And that’s what you should do, think about what’s the worse possible thing that could happen when you prepare your marketing plans. Think about how you could avoid controversy and if you plan to use it to your advantage think about how much you want to control it.

Extra Tip: Keep Reading All Possible Marketing Tips.

Enough said!

Photo credit: Flickr / Peter Kaminski

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