Having created a business, the toughest task is actually getting it in front of people. Marketing can be one of the most expensive exercises in the startup process, but it’s absolutely crucial to success.
Once again, it’s wise to take advantage of existing personal networks to spread the word early on. In addition to the free exposure given by listing her services on Alibaba.com, Cassidy contacted everyone she could think of in her immediate personal networks, both friends and family. While this is a basic exercise in spreading awareness, it can also help to find your first customers, as well as business opportunities you might not otherwise have encountered.
“My friends didn’t understand what my business was – they started sending the email out to their networks, and I actually got calls from quite a few of my competitors, because they happened to be friends of friends,” she says, which has worked in her favour. “They’ve been telling me they’re really glad I’m around. When they’ve got customers who only want 200 boxes, they send them on to me.”
One of the most fundamental ways of marketing a business is search engine marketing. SEM places a small text ad for your business against search results for relevant keywords in Google or Bing. Businesses bid on keywords that are relevant to their core products. The higher your bid, the more prominent the ad will be – either at or near the top of the page, above or beside the organic search results. Whenever a searcher clicks on your ad, you get charged the amount you bid. Only the most competitive keywords cost more than $2-5 per click. Businesses can also set a budget per day, after which the ad is removed until the next day.
SEM is a quick way of putting your brand in front of online customers while they’re looking for the sorts of products you sell. Provided you target well – using the free Google AdWords Keyword Tool to identify the terms people are actually using to find businesses like yours – then it’s a cost-effective way of growing a new business. The main difficulty lies in the competitive nature of the system. If your core keyword happens to be a particularly sought-after term, then you might not be able to afford the cost per click required to get a top spot in search. In these instances, it’s a healthy exercise to investigate less competitive terms that are still relevant to your business and target these.
If the cost to conversion ratio of SEM doesn’t suit your business, it’s a good idea to get creative about other ways of getting its name in front of customers. At startup, the only marketing cost for Hullubullu’s Turner was a stick of chalk.
“We didn’t really have a marketing budget, as such, so all we did was get a stick of chalk and write down ‘Hullubullu baby shop’ and our address in the parks near the business. That’s how we got people in the area to know we were there. It’s built up to a stage where a lot of people in the area know about us.”
The lack of an online retail store meant that any marketing outlay beyond the ‘chalk in park’ approach would have been a waste of money for the business, given its local focus.
Cost: SEM. $10/day for the first month = $280
Branding, registration, web design and basic marketing are the core processes associated with starting a business. There are countless other expenses that will likely tip your budget over the thousand dollar mark further down the line, but it’s the fear of these that holds many businesses back at the outset.
Don’t let apprehension over looming future costs get in the way of the first steps involved in bringing your brilliant business idea into the world. Contrary to popular opinion, it won’t cost you the earth.
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