Reposting a Quora answer on this one:
Jenna added an answer.
Startups: Zero Dollar Budget for Startup Marketing: Myth or Real?
It is very real. I do it every single day. That being said, I think the answers above outline the opportunity cost that goes along with any marketing campaign you do, whether it costs money or not, as the other important variables to take into account is time and alignment with business objectives.
That being said, I can outline strategies to make it real and myths about zero-cost marketing or acquisition that every founder/executive should understand.
1. You can rely on branding to carry buzz – Companies with strong brand equity can rely on this buzz in some ways. Although, keep in mind the types of brands with strong brand equity and what went into building this credibility that is the backbone to their buzz, (that is not just the usual ‘TechCrunch flash in the pan”). Take strong brands like Louis Vuitton, Coca-Cola, Equinox, etc. They likely spent more on building brand equity than pure customer acquisition. If you are a startup, always assume that you have zero brand equity and therefore there should be no reliance on buzz alone from any marketing campaign. You build brand equity one campaign at a time and it takes more than PR to secure long lasting brand equity.
2. Online marketing tools like social media and blogs allow us to market for free – Certainly there are crafty ways to use these tools, although without materials to give your audience something to educate or persuade, you are depending on empty amplification. Where do your links on social lead to (landing pages)? Is your content compelling? How is it different than everything else on the busy web? Why does your audience trust your content or care? Strong marketing materials to back up social broadcasting are an important piece of the puzzle…and not always free to create.
3. Our product speaks for itself – I don’t think I need to elaborate here. Although, I do hear this way too often. If you have a great product but nobody knows about it, your product does not “speak for itself”.
Real (take into account time, energy and opportunity cost):
1. Build highly engaged communities around a cause or industry your brand is within – I run a group I built from the ground-up called Fanhattan Insiders (yes, somewhat a shameless self-marketing plug, but it is an experience that helps me get the point across). I scanned the Internet to find active bloggers and highly engaged social media users who were up-and-comers in entertainment that would likely get value from knowing and engaging with each other. The group is comprised mostly of young broadcasters, journalists, and producers, although we have lots of really talented people building portfolios to make a jump form another industry into entertainment. The group is super supportive of each other by providing feedback and help promoting each others work. For example, when someone posts a youtube interview, or new blog post etc, we all share and give our feedback. Fanhattan uses this group to test products, help share our content, contribute to content through event opportunities that we get them passes to (in their home city), and to be our street team/evangelists in their city. We also look forward to building offline events for this group to further provide network value and receive value from this highly engaged group.
2. Growth hacking – “Growth hacking’s goal are based in marketing but driven by product instincts.” Gamification in the product, baked in virality, etc.
3. A marketing mix of “free” tactics – Similar to growth hacking, although different in that you are not necessarily getting creative to ‘play’ on the system. You are rather using the ‘free’ or ‘cheap’ tactics already well known by most marketers (Facebook, Twitter, pintrest). One great example of this is a widget strategy. Work with partnerships to trade real estate to drive traffic or brand awareness (take into account cost to build widget). Some businesses also build this through rev. share (which is not necessarily free, but it does not make you pay acquisition or impression money upfront for a campaign). See above for a deeper understanding of optimizing social though, as this often costs money.
Disclaimer: I would not recommend zero-budget marketing to most businesses. In many cases, if you have competitors and a low barrier to entry (which is the case for almost all businesses), you will need to take marketing seriously. I have seen countless companies fail for their lack of understanding and weighting of the importance of marketing. Most of the time, you have to spend money to make money…just be damn smart about it.
I just can’t have one more person ask me “how to get more Twitter followers?”. I am not even the ranting type, (I leave that to Adam Corolla on his podcast), although, I can’t help but remain perplexed by why this vanity metric has become so valuable in seemingly smart executive’s eyes. What is a follower? Are they a meaningful impression to your brand? Do more followers mean more conversions? For most brands, these questions seem to be bypassed at the beginning for one simple goal of volume.
To me, the number itself is sheer vanity. It is the people behind that number that matter. Who are your followers? Are they engaged? Are they true meaningful fans that can help you spread the word or are they potential customers (your two targets)?
It is these questions that give us the true insights on how to use Twitter for real marketing that should be asked — before you think about the numbers.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter. It is a great source for real-time information, meeting new people, measuring your brand’s pulse, gaining feedback, and more. Although, what it is not is a single stop for advertising or guaranteed reach. If you are looking at it through this (latter) lens, you are going to get extremely frustrated very quickly. As not all followers are equal (and as we have seen through traditional marketing methods, not all impressions lead to results).
Here is one way I use Twitter, to build community and find meaningful members with a goal to build relationships; to help truly scale your social media efforts online (without the help of other campaigns like TV, radio, etc, that are usually the expensive tactics for building your ‘owned’ social following).
Note: All examples are taken from my community and brand ambassador program that I built for video discovery service, Fanhattan. Everything was built online through social media without any offline interaction…yet. So far, the group, titled ‘Fanhattan Insiders Program’ has 50 highly engaged fans from 10 major cities in the US.
Build a meaningful online community with a clear mission.
Fanhattan is at the intersection of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, proudly raising eyebrows in both communities. We are looking to engage with passionate fans of entertainment, no matter what your current expertise or domain within the industry. If you define yourself as a passionate professional in entertainment and want to immerse yourself into a community to learn, support and help other passionate industry leaders, we have a group for you!
Our goal is to help you define yourself in this rapidly changing and social world, while you help us spread the word about Fanhattan’s vision for the future of entertainment. In this community we want to help uncover your strengths and skills, challenge you to confidently show what you know, and of course come along for the ride in a company full of entertainment industry enthusiasts and creators.
Through the Fanhattan Insiders group, we want to help you build a strong network of industry professionals for support and promotion of each other’s work. The community is about each and every member bringing and deriving value by taking part. In this community you will meet: screenwriters, authors, journalists, bloggers, actors, directors, producers, composers, and more, all passionate about one thing, working in entertainment!
Where We Connect:
Fanhattan Insiders on Facebook
Fanhattan Insiders Google +
We want Insiders to have fun and use this opportunity to network, support others, get feedback for your work, but also develop your personal voice and brand within the industry. Whatever your angle or interests, we certainly have opportunities to join this journey with us.
Look for highly engaged Twitter followers of your brand.
Make sure they also have websites, social media, etc. You want people who are active and participate online.
Invite them to your group personally and tell them about how it can be beneficial for them and super fun to take part in your community.
Sample email to highly engaged Twitter follower who engages with your brand in a positive way often:
Hi Tracy/Princess Trek,
You look awesome!! I see you are a friend of one of our editors, Jenna Busch. I figured you might be a fun addition to our Fanhattan Insider community on Google + & Facebook. The group is for like-minded entertainment industry professionals and passionate fans. We have members in entertainment journalism, screenwriters, artists, producers and more. We also have members with day jobs outside of entertainment, who are passionate fans and community contributors to the group, as well as with their own blogs and social networks. Everyone adds a lot of value through sharing projects, stories, experiences, and more!
The group is built to give you a great network within the industry and to help promote each others work through our own networks. We would love to help get your writing out there through the group’s blogs, podcasts, social media and more. It is a really fun and supportive community, I promise.
Here are our links for the group:
Also, send me a 3 sentence bio including where you are located, projects you are working on and goals/passions you are pursuing in the future.
P.S. Feel free to ask Jenna Busch about the group if you have questions as I see you two are connected.
Welcome your members, introduce them to the group, and spark conversations.
Make your group a special place that:
- Incorporates all members and makes them feel supported and part of a community
- Adds value for members
- Helps build a network for all involved
- Is about the brand, but more about the people who make the group
- Empowers everyone in the group to be a teacher, but also the opportunity to be a student
- Is filled with like-minded individuals who are passionate about similar topics (have something in common)
- Is made up of creators who contribute to the internet with a strong voice in their own communities (so that each member is likely to engage with each other and the group, as well as offer other members value by working together or helping promote each others work)
Next Steps coming soon, including how to keep your group engaged, how to leverage the community, and how to keep building the community in a meaningful way.