This post is part 2 of my series on how to lower start-up expenses.
- How I lower my Rental & Salary Expenses
- How I lower my Marketing & Sales Expenses
- How I lower my Website Expenses
- How I lower my Other Operational Expenses [Hardware, Software, Misc.]
Why is Marketing & Sales important for a start-up?
Simple, this is where you will make money. You may have stellar product, awesome website with rainbows (double) and nice looking office. But without effective marketing, you are not going to make even one penny. Many start-up owners or dreamers neglect this aspect of running a company. In fact, marketing is so important that, you should ask yourself, “who is going to be buying what I sell and where do I find them?” even before designing your product.
How I do kick-ass Marketing & generate sales while keeping expenses low:
Ok, may be my marketing is not as much as that of Naomi’s Ittybiz. But I think it is fairly effective. After all, it has been putting bread in my family’s mouth for last 6 months. So what do I do that merits as Marketing & still costs very little.
- My blog is my marketing platform: I use my blog to mainly write about Excel and teach people how to be more productive with it. I also market my products and services thru it once every 2-3 weeks (sometimes more often if I have a product launch going on).
- I showcase my work and offer free samples: Again thru my blog, I give-away free excel templates, files, tutorials and videos, all great content with no strings attached. In fact, all my best selling products have almost equally awesome free versions, all shared on my blog. This helps me build my brand, increase my credibility.
- Email newsletters: I use aweber email newsletter system to create and maintain multiple newsletters. It costs me about $25 per month and provides amazing service and pays off almost immediately. If you ever want to start an online business, having email list is a must. You should consider getting an aweber account.
- Asking my prospects to buy: You can have a kick ass product, great website and tons of readers. But unless, you open your mouth and ask, no one is going to buy from you. That is why I frequently remind my readers that I sell some products and they can get them to become even more awesome. I do this while keeping regular flow of great content, ideas and keeping my community alive. So, naturally my readers love to hear these sales messages too.
- No Outside Advertising: I do not have ad-words or other types of advertising. Not because they don’t work (I have never tested them). But because, I intend to keep my expenses low and operations simple. Plus I prefer to have good, organic content that ranks well on similar search phrases. So naturally people looking for products in the area where I operate tend to land on my site any ways.
- Partnerships: Instead of advertising, I partner with reliable, established folks in my niche. I do this by actively following their blogs, reading their news letters and contributing to their communities. Once the trust is established, I casually ask them if I can partner with them in their ventures and invite them to sign-up for my affiliate program. This has worked wonders for me as they get me new customers, prospects and readers and in return I offer them a cut in my sales.
- Awesome support: As much as possible, I keep my products easy to use and straight-forward. But if my customers need any support, I strive to provide nothing short of awesome. This will result in good feelings and makes them come back. [Related: 7 ways startups can differentiate from big businesses]
How this differs from Traditional Marketing & Sales:
Many of my friends who are interested in starting a venture ask me, “how do I generate sales?”.
Traditional model for generating sales is like this:
Make a product > Advertise > Get Prospects > Convert > Advertise more …
I think the above model is inherently doomed. Your success depends on advertising and competition can outspend all the time.
A better model is something like this:
Find prospects > Design product > Sell > Use feedback to improve product
This model is excellent for small startups as it doesnt assume advertising. But, how do you find prospects? Simple. Start a blog.
In the next installment of this series, I will share how I lower my website maintenance expenses.
Share your experiences:
How do you market your products, how do you sell while keeping expenses low? Please share using comments.
Image credit: Photo by HLIT