Lean Marketing? Think big with ideas, not with your wallet

Lean Marketing? Think big with ideas, not with your wallet

Most start-ups are thrifty with their marketing budget. With so many digital channels, offline-online hybrids and a multitude of devices in consumers’ hands, you’re probably wondering how you’re going to effectively reach, engage and convert new customers without that 'big guy' budget.

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While most start-ups (including the one I work with, DesignCrowd.com.au) are trying to do more with less, it’s not just the little guys taking advantage of ‘lean marketing’ and turning to new approaches, like online crowdsourcing. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd crowdsourced a T-shirt design for the 2013 election campaign and Domino’s Australia crowdsourced a $1,000 pizza box cover design from its Facebook community.

So, whether you’re just at the idea phase, you’ve just launched or you’re an established business, it doesn't hurt to explore some simple ideas. Here’s what DesignCrowd.com.au has road tested, and what you can do:

Build your own list and interact with it

Your customers are your business partners and your best marketing tool. Harnessing the power to interact with them will help you build one mean marketing machine. Marketing is like being in a relationship, and you don’t need a big budget to start and grow a thriving romance with your customers.

At DesignCrowd.com.au, when a designer or company signs up to our marketplace, they receive a welcome email from our CEO and founder, Alec Lynch. We even send ‘thank you’ cards to our customers, designers and other stakeholders. A DesignCrowd.com.au customer posted about the great impression this created on her blog. Back that up with fanatical customer service, and your customers will love you.

Get social

To find out more about a company, person, idea, job, location, or anything else for that matter, the first thing we do is jump online. Social media platforms can connect you with billions of potential customers. How many highway billboards can do that?

It’s in our nature to socialise and share ideas with each other. We live in the age of the network economy where connections amplify success.

Leave your desk

Local meet-ups (check out Meetup.com), industry conferences, and networking events (try social conference directory, Lanyrd) are some places senior executives of a business need to think about attending and participating to get their public profile out there.

Know your users

Once you have them in reach, use free tools like Google Forms, Wufoo or Survey Monkey to create a survey you can share with your users. If you want Google’s reach, try Google Consumer Insights, a new tool that distributes your survey across Google’s publisher networks to millions of users. You only pay Google for the number of responses and you can even set a maximum number of submissions.

A good way to find out what keywords are trending in your space is through Google’s free keyword search tool.

Become a data ninja

Famous adman David Ogilvy once said: “Never stop testing and your advertising will never stop improving.”

The same is true for websites. If you want to improve your conversion rate, reduce your cost per acquisition, improve site indexing, or unlock more value by understanding how your customers use your site, get on the web tools bandwagon.

A/B testing: Start testing the conversion performance of your landing page design to unlock more value. We suggest Optimizely.

Google’s Webmaster: Create a sitemap to get your site indexed and appear on search engines.

Google Analytics: Monitor your site’s visitor traffic and behaviour so you can track your sales funnel.

SEM and remarketing: If you’re investing in cost effective channels to drive clicks, make sure your ‘squeeze’ pages are in sync with the copy and design elements in your display ad on Facebook or text ad on Google. That way you present a consistent message which will increase the chance of users taking action.

Qualaroo, Web Engage or Effective Measure: Track audience behaviour through user exit surveys to improve on-site user engagement and conversion in real-time.

HubSpot: Can do an SEO health check on your site, benchmarking you against millions of site reviews and recommending areas for improvement.

Be an expert in your niche

Who are the influential thought-leaders in your niche? You should consider how you can get amongst them.

If you have an opinion, tell it, don’t wait to have a PR budget. Offer insight or guest editorial to bloggers, journalists and news sites.

Cultivating social proof

The phrase ‘social proof’ was coined by Robert Cialdini (professor of marketing and psychology at Arizona State University) as a way of explaining the ‘herd’ phenomenon online.

Amazon, the ecommerce behemoth, was one of the first (and still a leading example) of how to cultivate social proof for your product or service. Think of pop-up customer reviews, ratings and testimonials that appear across product pages and influence what you choose to buy.

As Richard Branson says: "You can create a business, choose a name, but unless people know about it you're not going to sell any products."

Josephine Sabin is marketing manager for Australian-based start-up DesignCrowd.com.au.