How to advertise your startup at a low cost

In the early stages of your startup, advertising that's easier on your pocket can include focusing on SEO and brand recall, leveraging permission marketing, using niche advertising platforms, Facebook and Google.
Written by Srinivas Kulkarni, Contributor

It's always a question to a lot of startup founders when they've finished building their product and their focus is on reaching out to their users and customers.

This is the place where everybody's focus is on as soon as they have started to reach out to their market. One of the important questions founders ask themselves is how do they go about their advertising as part of their product marketing strategy.

Many product startups in India nowadays, be it bootstrapped, angel or VC funded, have advertising on their mind right from the get go. So, one of the questions that they ask themselves is how could they get a good ROI on the advertising they do and what mediums should they choose to ensure that there is awareness created about their product and the launch of their product is successful.

So here's something that could come handy especially if you are starting out in terms of advertising for your startup.

Of course, being a tech startup or not, one of the biggest advantage in today's day and age is the fact that Internet has made your life easier. So whether you are a tech or a non-tech startup, you should and could always take advantage of various internet advertising options at your disposal.

But how does one begin to strategize on the advertising front?

Be noticed


First and foremost, figure out a way to be noticed. Yes SEO is the key element of how you put your Web site out there, but most importantly, your branding and overall buzz that you create from the perspective of what your target audience is and needs is very important.

Try and figure out on how you will create a brand recall in the minds of your users, customers and consumers that they'll come back to you or remember your product, your app as soon as someone talks about the "real problem" they are facing. For example: Someone says, I need a second hand bicycle, any idea where I can buy it? The immediate thought that comes to my mind is, check out Quikr or olx.in.

I totally buy the point that there's a huge spend that's gone behind mainstream advertising, however other than that, I still would have thought of this name as these brands are synonymous to the problem faced. Even before Flipkart came out with their television ads, if someone asked me which is the best laptop to buy, I'd suggest them to use the "compare feature" on Flipkart and see for themselves. Why? Because that is the prodcut feature that was stuck in my head.

So create a tagline, index it with your SEO, create an advertising campaign that really creates a brand value and brand recall for your product startup. If today, someone asks me where I should check out the best mobile prices I'd immediately recommend PriceBaba to them. Such is the power of creating a brand recall.

Permission marketing

An easy way to ensure that you get permission to contact your customer again, is to offer something in exchange for their email address. It could be a free trial, book, goodies or even a free report on something the consumer and users find useful. Here you aren't asking for their email address to get their data, but to send something that they might find useful and wouldn't mind sharing their email address for. You will most obviously increase your conversion, but more importantly this also means great traction for you anyways.

Niche advertising platforms

One of the key things is to ensure that you reach out your key audience with a niche platform or a forum where your conversion is bound to be higher. Don't use the funnel or the mass marketing approach, especially if your product startup has to cater to a specific geography, demographics or for that matter problems that need solving. Find out those specific forums and Web sites where you can go about advertising your product startup. For example: Somebody like a Myntra, Jabong or for that matter Yebhi would be better off if they did advertising on various blogs / portals or for that matter forums that talk about e-commerce and online shopping. Their conversion ratio gets higher by going for niche advertising. Depending on the niche you are reaching out to, it would certainly be easy to find a forum, blog, magazine or website. The tighter the niche the better. Niche sites are always cheaper to advertise on and you have a better chance of driving targeted traffic, which means more conversion rate.

Facebook advertising

Obviously, this is a given. With Facebook coming into the picture, there are plenty of startups using this as an option and trying to target very specific audiences and reaching out to many consumers, customers and users. In fact there are a lot of startups, especially ones in retail, that can benefit from actually targeting these customers via Facebook advertising or at the same time using a campaign management tool or an app like ViralMint, which I've talked about in the past. But one of the key things one can do via Facebook advertising is to ensure that the target audience that is reached out, really brings in some value to the product and are genuine assets for the product.

Of course Facebook is certainly the most viable option and the value of it is to showcase the ad to appropriate target audience based on user's profile. Easy segmentation based on age, gender, location and etc is available. The best way to get a high CTR is to ensure there is a powerful image, an engaging headline and the targeting is appropriate along with crisp copy of 90 words. It's important that you have a very tight targeting on your demographics and that you only reach out to them appropriately.

Google advertising

Of course, Google ads is something that startups used, way before Facebook even came into the picture. Over a period of time, certainly the usage of Google ads has peaked and people have figured a way out to reach out to their target audience appropriately over a period of time, via Google ads. We all know the significance that it has but in these changing times, how well are we using Google ads?

A lot of times with Google carpet-bombing AdWords coupons to every business in the the number of advertisers, and certainly the competition, is increasing. Cheap clicks are certainly a thing of the yesteryear. Generally a lot of people think Google AdWords as the ads that appear to the right of search results. But a lot of folks don't focus on so many other ads that appear to the right of search results, in your emails. A lot of these ads placed through Google AdWords is very cheap to advertise on, than the search results.
A very good approach in the long term is to use Conversion optimizer. Also try out the keyword tool to ensure that your reach is better. If you dwell into Google AdWords and try to figure out the niche you want to target, then most certainly you won't be disappointed.

And the others

Other than these options, there's always, Inbound Marketing (set up your own content based blog and keep updating it with relevant tags and keywords on a regular basis), try to use social bookmarking, focus on spreading your messages and links via Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon and other sites as such.

Do you have any other ideas that you'd like to share on how you advertise your startup without spending too much money and yet getting a decent ROI?

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