Finding the right marketing strategy has always been one of the most challenging tasks for startups. When large enterprises launch a new product, they roll out extensive advertising strategies on online and offline channels, sometimes even hiring PR experts to develop their marketing strategies.
But most startups don't have enough resources. They can only rely on a low-budget marketing strategy, such as blog, email, word-of-mouth marketing, etc.
Fear not, all kinds of marketing strategies have emerged for startups, and most of them are low cost. Some of these approaches are relatively simple, while others are more complicated. But they all share a common feature - they work.
Here are the top 5 marketing strategies adopted by some of the most successful startups.
1. The Little Bighorn strategy
If you find it challenging to reach your target market, you can try to enter the nearest market to assess the market's demand for your product.
Facebook is a business that became famous using this approach.
In the early days of Facebook, their target market was students in school. At that time, many schools already had their own social networks. So Facebook did not promote directly in these schools but in the campuses within miles of the target schools. The advantage of this marketing strategy is that Facebook first attracted the students' families. Then the students slowly became familiar with Facebook.
When your friends and families are using Facebook, it's hard not to accept it. You will naturally give up the use of your school's original social network and start using Facebook.
Because your friends like a service, you then join the service, this principle is called "social identity". In the Internet industry, this kind of social identity is essential.
2. The queue
Instead of allowing users to register and use your service immediately, you can put them in a queue. When you are done enhancing your service, you let them start using your service.
iOS email app Mailbox relied on this approach to acquire a large number of users. Once you've downloaded the app, you'll join a queue, and you can see where you are in the queue.
This approach is social identity in a different form. Because the user can see in an intuitive way that many other people also want to use this app, they will be curious about it.
Add a function to your app: allowing users to publish information on their other social networking accounts via your app.
Both Airbnb and Instagram have used such an approach. Airbnb allows users to post their listings on Craigslist, while Instagram allows users to post on Twitter and Facebook.
The benefit of doing this is obvious. You're letting your users sell your service, recommend your service to their friends on other social media networks and attract more users. By using this approach, Instagram grew its user base to 30 million in 2012. It was acquired by Facebook at a US$1 billion valuation.
4. By the way...
Surely your business name and logo are everywhere on your website, which is good. But you can take it one step further by actually adding them to your users' contents, for example.
That's what Hotmail does. Each time a user sends an email, they add this line and a link below the original mail: "Get your free email account now." Especially back then, when most other emails services weren't free, they managed to acquire a large number of users using this approach.
Again, this approach makes the users your sales team, and the best thing about this approach is - it's zero-cost marketing.
5. I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine
Encourage users to invite their friends to use your service and reward them. Don't forget to reward both the one invited and the one who invites.
In the early days of PayPal, they used to have a campaign where they were offering users a $20 reward. In other words, if you referred someone to use PayPal, you would each get a $10 reward.
By the time the campaign ended, PayPal had acquired millions of new users. Of course, PayPal is not the only brand using this strategy to acquire a large number of users, and you have surely seen a lot of other Internet companies using it. They may not be giving cash rewards directly to users but in the form of other giveaways. For example, many cloud storage companies have done this: if a user invites a friend to use the service, the user will get 1GB free storage space and so on.
Who doesn't like free lunch?
This strategy has a significant disadvantage, however. The cost is too high for most startups. But compared to TV ads and online ads that charge per second or per click, the cost of this strategy is relatively affordable.