Follow These 7 Paid Marketing Steps to Fuel Your Startup’s Growth


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There’s a lot of startup marketing you should be doing for free – like social media brand building, increasing website traffic through organic search, media coverage, getting reviews online on major platforms and just talk to as many customers as possible.

Once you’ve done that and these programs are working well, it’s time to consider paid marketing. Here are seven options you can layer to fuel your startup’s growth.

1. Use paid social media to generate interest

Unless you’re in retail or consumer goods, you won’t get many sales directly from social media. That’s not how most people buy. So instead of trying to close, try to create interest.

Create a professional 10-30 second video, high quality image assets and helpful text messages. Promote content and ads that educate viewers about the problem you’re solving and how your product or service works. Get them to want more: to click on your profile or search for you on Google. Use social media to create interest that you can then capture on your website and other channels.

2. Invest in paid search for bottom-of-funnel demand and top-of-funnel content

People actively seek solutions to their problems. Some of these searches are for purchase intent (“emergency HVAC service”), and some are simply informational (“why isn’t my HVAC cooling”). It’s worth paying for search ads on Google and Bing for both.

Purchase intent searches should drive traffic to your website homepage or product landing page. Informative searches should drive traffic to your content, like a blog or YouTube video, where you answer their questions.

Targeting information searches is often (but not always) a cheaper option for generating qualified leads. It’s easy enough to teach people how to solve their problems and then ask them, “Want us to do it for you? Text or call us today.”

Related: 5 Steps to Creating Successful Marketing Campaigns

3. Attend targeted trade shows to start conversations

Trade shows bring together hundreds or thousands of potential customers under one roof, and you can talk to any of them. But exhibiting is expensive. For shows you’ve never attended, pay for one or two people. Engage in conversations with as many attendees and vendors as possible. Research sales opportunities and ask them about industry shows they want to attend.

If you can close deals, great. If you find out about other important shows, that’s great too. Use it as a cheap experiment to know where to spend your time and more money. Then check point #5.

4. Produce high-quality video ads (ads)

Videos can be used effectively across multiple channels, including at in-person events. This makes them incredibly valuable and also means it’s worth paying more for premium, commercial-grade videos.

Your script will be crucial. A good video ad picks out a problem you’re solving, highlights how painful that problem is, shows how it’s solved with your help, and invites viewers to take action to work with you.

It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, but you do need to factor paid promotion into your budget. The 80/20 rule applies: spend 20% of your time and budget on creation, 80% on promotion.

Related: 5 steps to make winning marketing bets

5. Sponsor key and proven trade shows

Now that you know which shows are worth betting on, bet big. Be the belle of the ball. Get an oversized booth space. Bring a team to man your booth. Sponsor educational sessions. Give an educational session. Pay for a digital billboard in the room – to introduce a speaker, to mark complementary Wi-Fi network and password, to show your video to an engaged audience.

The success of a salon is not linear. You have to create a lot of buzz to get traction, and that attention tends to pay off exponentially. Pro tip: Local and regional trade shows tend to bring a better return on investment than national or international trade shows. It’s easier and cheaper to stand out.

6. Team up with complementary partners for co-marketing

Partnering with another brand can help both of you improve your reputation and revenue. A good partner has overlapping target audiences, shared values, and complementary offerings (i.e., you serve the same people, have similar mindsets, and customers need both of you anyway).

Put a full go-to-market movement behind these partnerships. Issue press releases, get pages on everyone’s websites, talk to your customers, allow everyone’s sales teams to sell for you, and do ongoing co-marketing through webinars, events and other content. You can usually market partnerships for free, but be prepared to put some money into it.

Related: 5 Steps Every One-Person Sales and Marketing Team Should Follow

7. Host your own in-person events

Two things are true: direct contact with customers helps you sell more and keep your accounts longer, and people want to be invited to events.

The most effective customer events bring customers, partners, and prospects together around a common denominator (you). They educate everyone about the problems you’re solving and give attendees an excuse to get out of the office (or home).

Whether it’s for a half day, a full day, multiple days, or just long enough to watch a football game, create opportunities to bring your community together and have fun. If you are a local business, these events become much easier. If you work across the country — or around the world — go where you have customer centers and host smaller events.

No marketing trick will be enough to propel your startup to strong growth. Make sure you have a product people are willing to pay for, clear messaging, and happy customers. Then start layering other effective marketing tactics and channels like the ones above. Stack, don’t hack your way to growth. Nail one, then continue as you layer the next, and repeat. Before long, you’ll have a marketing flywheel that won’t stop.


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