10 Marketing Tips for Startups

by Autumn Knudtson

So you’ve decided to start a business. Congrats! Welcome to entrepreneurship. It comes with a lot of stress, hard work and late nights, but can also reap rewards and fulfillment. In my experience, many days are spent overanalyzing and re-strategizing, and also thinking, “WHAT did I get myself into?!” I mean in all honesty, I have never been so stressed out, but yet so motivated and dedicated, in my entire life.

Before I started my business, I was an 8-5er, going into the work day with a painted on smile and a gallon of coffee and coming out of it unappreciated, unfulfilled, and stressed out. And for what? A steady, but mediocre paycheck? A future career as a marketing executive, where I would climb the corporate ladder to becoming a miserable corporate robot working 7am-7pm, 7 days a week, who recited marketing slogans and legal jargon in my sleep and saw my family for an hour a day? Umm nope, that’s not me.

I thought, I’ll start my own business. I know lots about marketing and web design and I enjoy it. I can make my own hours but not be a slave to the clock, and still have more time with my family. Right? Well, kind of. Currently, my days consist of working 7 days a week, often times late into the evenings and anytime I can get time without my 2 year old taking over the keyboard or singing Paw Patrol in my ear. I rarely take lunch breaks on the days she goes to daycare, and often I even find myself forgetting that I’ve had to pee for 4 hours because I’m in the middle of a project. But that’s what we entrepreneurs sign up for when we branch off into our own world of business-slaying. One of my favorite quotes is

“Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” – Lori Grenier

So true. Entrepreneurs are some of the hardest working people that exist. So, let’s make sure that your new venture as a startup is worth the blood, sweat and tears you put into it. These days, anyone with access to a computer can create a website and an LLC and call themselves a business. But making your business one of the few that comes out of the first two years with their head above water is a feat. Here are some tips to help you shout your brand from the rooftops, and into the ears and eyes of your future consumers:

1. Have a brand, not just a business name.

Your business name is incredibly important, don’t get me wrong. But a brand is what is going to sell your stuff. I’m talking colors, logo, slogan and brand personality. More on that here.

2. Get a kickass website.

Over 80% of consumers visit a website before making a purchase decision. Your website literally works 24/7. It is the face of your business.  Make it handsome and informative.

3. Don’t use your personal social media profiles for your business.

This rolls into creating a brand for your business. I see this all the time, especially from Realtors. You need to create a separate business page to create trust and credibility. Don’t use your personal page as your business page – it’s bad for business. And also annoying.

4. Be consistent.

Not everyone is going to like what you’re selling. Don’t change your image to try and attract a variety of audiences; stay true to your brand, and stay true to your values. There is a good article on that here.

5. Collaborate.

Collaborating with other non-competing businesses in your area is a great way to bring in new business and gain valuable networking resources. Great high-profile examples of collaborating are Red Bull & Go Pro, Pottery Barn & Sherwin Williams, Uber & Spotify. Maybe you own a catering company and you know a great venue you can collaborate with? Or if you’re an athletic clothing company, you could collaborate with a local sports team. The possibilities are endless.

6. Network.

Your network is your net worth. No matter how big your business gets, networking is never a bad idea. I try and make it a goal to have coffee with at least one new person a week. Sometimes it leads to a sale, sometimes not. But you never know when that person might need something you offer, and they will remember that one time you were so nice as to take time out of your busy day just to meet for coffee and a brief introduction.

7. Get familiar with SEO.

Maybe you can’t afford to hire someone right now, but if you’re able, carve it into your budget. Having a website is just one step of many to getting optimal business. The internet is a competitive place, and you need to have tools and steps in place to be found.

8. Use spellcheck.

I’m not kidding. It is so essential to have proper grammar! Yet I see so many businesses totally lose their credibility with misspelled words and horrible grammar, on anything from social media posts to signs. It seems so small and simple but yet it is incredibly important.

9. Protect yourself.

Not only should you get your legal requirements in order as far as your brand name, taxes, permits etc. but marketing and websites require disclaimers in order to protect your business from being sued or taken advantage of. Please do your research on how to use marketing disclaimers, and always seek legal advice if you’re not sure on something. Here is a good resource for new businesses about protecting your business when marketing on the internet.

10. Have fun.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Remember that you can’t make everyone happy, and you will eventually piss someone off. Being an entrepreneur is sure to throw you some curve balls, but if you’re able to have a sense of humor, you will undoubtedly be happier and a better businessperson because of it.