Eight affordable marketing ideas for startups
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Eight affordable marketing ideas for startups

Marketing your new startup business doesn’t have to break the bank. Gil Kahana from ChattyFeet, the quirky purveyor of socks behind Kate Middle–Toe, Prof. Brian Sox and the Sockfather, reveals a number of creative and cost-effective techniques you can use to increase your brand awareness.

1.  Send samples

For ChattyFeet, sending samples was one of the easiest ways to get exposure. It’s critical to send a sample to the right person in the organisation. If you’re sending it to a magazine, you have to check that the person actually writes about your specialist area. In our case, we look for people who cover fashion, lifestyle or gift guides. If someone has already written about your area before, they’re more likely to want to hear from you.

Think about which of your products is best to send to them, bearing in mind your target audience. We posted our Kate Middle-Toe to British Vogue, who upon receipt instagrammed a photo of it – receiving around 6,600 likes altogether. This approach worked since Kate is a fashion icon who interests many of Vogue’s readers. We wouldn’t, however, get the same response if we were to send our Prof. Brian Sox.

2.  Apply for awards

If you believe your product has made a positive impact, there are plenty of opportunities to get recognition. We applied for the Guardian Small Business Showcase awards. We haven’t won anything up until now, but were invited to a great event where our socks were given away in goody bags to all attendees.

At the event itself, we had some excellent conversations with journalists, and were invited to participate in a live Q&A online about social media just a few months later. We didn’t plan for this outcome, but by applying for the award, attending the event and networking, it opened up so many new opportunities for us.

3.  Do something unusual

Every week, we go around the city and take photos of our sock characters in festivals, art exhibitions and famous monuments. It’s quite unusual and took us a while to master – it helps if you have flexible legs to be able to pose! We then post these photos on our Instagram account, which helps communicate the personality of our brand. So far we have 5,425 followers, which equals to 54,250 toes! Here’s a recent photo of Brad Feet at the Bamboo Forrest in Kyoto, Japan.

4.  Socialise

You’ve probably heard it many times before about the importance of attending industry events. Well, it’s not just the going that matters, but also how you behave whilst you’re there. Both of the ChattyFeet co-founders can be a little shy, but we’ve learnt to overcome it whilst we’re networking.

It’s pretty hard to start a conversation with random people who may not have heard of your brand before, but it can become much easier if you see someone standing by themselves or ordering a drink at the bar. After you initiate a conversation, knowing the right moment to move on is as equally important. Don't stay in a conversation just because of the fear of starting a new one. The most elegant way we discovered for moving on was when a person simply told us: “It’s very nice to meet you. I’ll now go and speak with other people, and you can do the same.” Super honest and helpful.

Networking at events can make great things happen for you and your brand. At one event, we met people from the Design Council, who then went on to write a blog post about us.

5.  Contribute an article

If there’s something you do very well, it’s a good idea to turn it into an article that provides support and wisdom for others, as well as showcases your expertise. Hopefully, what you’re reading now will help you to increase your publicity. We decided to contact CIM as we had some valuable experiences and examples of marketing that could be shared with small businesses like ours. Think about what topics might interest your target audience, and pitch them to influential blog sites and companies within your niche for a guest post. This is a great way to expand your reach – to get new eyes on your content and communicate with potential customers you haven't yet engaged with. 

6.  Ask ‘Who cares?’

Marketing is a lot about finding an audience who cares about what you do. For us, it can be those who have expressed their enjoyment of funky socks, or art lovers due to our artist sock collection. Trying to target these demographics is much easier than approaching everyone. When we were running our Kickstarter campaign, we found that illustrators and puppeteers reacted very well to it, which in turn helped us to generate more revenue.

7. Giveaways

Many brands use giveaways as a way to gain more exposure on their social networks. It’s relatively cheap to run, unless you’re selling a luxury product. RaffleCopter is a service which can help to run such promotions, as well as define what the conditions will be like to take part. For example, you can ask that individuals follow you on Facebook or retweet a message you posted.

The problem with offering giveaways is that even though it can generate some buzz, many of the people who apply are only interested in receiving the freebie and not in your brand. For this reason, giveaways are best used in moderation – we only run them a couple of times a year.

8. Facebook ads

The great thing about Facebook ads is that you can specify in detail which people you’d like to see it. Unlike a printed ad in the London Underground, you can specify the age, gender, interests, life stage, and much more. This helps to make your ad more targeted and relevant, as well as minimise the cost. You can decide if your ad will show on desktops or mobile devices, or recently even Instagram.

Marketing for startups is challenging, but we hope that these techniques will help your small business to get more exposure and continue to grow.

Gil Kahana Co-Founder ChattyFeet
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