Developing a new venture often starts with communicating on a budget. Getting early traction, before funding, can be tough for most startups.
To get early adopters, your first customers, they need to hear about you. In a way that doesn’t cost you your whole investment. Entrepreneurs are very lucky, Internet has made it possible to communicate for free.
This article gives you a list of ressources you can use in order to communicate freely for your startup. From Inbound Marketing to PR, you’ll learn all the ways to talk about your startup without spending a dime.
1. Content Marketing
Producing content can be extremely powerful for most startups. Educate readers, explain your product is possible through engaging online articles.
You can produce many types of content, articles, presentations, videos, interviews… Think about your customers, what are they interested in? What do they like to consume?
One very good example is Buffer’s strategy. They’re a Social Media productivity tool, they decided to talk about Productivity & Life Hacking. Nothing that came close to Social Media. Learn more by reading From Ideas to Traffic Results on Buffer’s blog.
You have to find subjects that relate to your audience. Even if it doesn’t relate directly to your offerings. HubSpot wrote an article about Content Idea Generation that you should read.
Having a blog goes along with Content Marketing. However, don’t forget about the identity of your brand. Blog about your Company, Products, Employees…
Blogging can have many purposes. Nowadays, most ventures have a blog for several reasons. You (almost) need one for every new business that you build.
You can educate your customers, build an email list, build a strong readership… Genuinely blogging can help you to shape the DNA of your brand, creating a true relationship with customers.
3. Guest Blogging
Guest Blogging can help you to put your words out there. Somewhere you couldn’t reach alone. There are massive blogs in almost every industry. Getting your content there can help you to reach a great new audience.
Write articles for massive blogs can help you to earn credibility and inbound links primary for your SEO. Blog around something near your industry and something you master.
Guest Blogging can also help you to become a true influencer inside one industry. If people hear & read your name each time they come across interesting content on a particular subject, they’ll think about you later on when they need something.
SEO isn’t free. It takes plenty of time and know-how. However, in a world where SERP (Search Engine Result Pages) can account for more than 70% of the traffic you reach, you need to pay close attention to your rankings.
SEO can help you to reach a very wide audience and to attract people to your website. Even if you’re new in the industry, take into consideration the power of SEO.
Don’t forget to provide great value to all your visitors. Provide true value to users before thinking about selling your product. Overselling your product won’t get you anywhere.
People are eager to learn about new products. They want to learn about them. They often read news and product listings where they can try new stuff.
Having articles on this kind of website can generate a lot of early traction and creates word of mouth around your product. Besides, getting featured on those websites is generally easy.
Here is a list of some website you can try:
You can find a more exhaustive list on the article SaaS Directories: 20 Must-Have to Promote your SaaS.
Startuplister allows you to get listed on all these websites for only $49. Definitely worth checking out to save you some time on submissions.
In today’s world, you can email almost anybody, for free. So use this ressource to talk with prospective customers, experts, industry influencers…
If you try to reach influencers, don’t forget that those people get thousands of emails like these each week. So be concise and bring value first.
Building a newsletter can truly help you to build your business. Some businesses (almost) only rely on newsletters to get new customers.
Bring value to your users. Present your product over time. Be patient. Avoid sending out 10 emails per week as you would get a very high unsubscribe rate.
8. Social Media
In our connected world, Social Media can be a very powerful tool to talk about your startup. It’s a place where you can talk with everybody.
Don’t make the mistake of ONLY talking about your product. Social Media is about engaging and discussing with people. Don’t oversell your product.
Videos can help you to describe your product in a simpler way. They can also help you to reach a new audience and to produce a new kind of content.
Entrepreneurs, like Derek Halpern built their businesses through launching a YouTube channel. Guess what? It worked for him.
Emailing anyone is very simple. You can actually contact people directly for any matters. You can contact influencers to get feedback on your product.
Let’s say you wrote a blogpost that answer one influencer’s post. You should contact him and try to engage the discussion. You could start to build a relationship.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. Even if they’re very influential. Always think WIIFT (What’s In It For Them), what value can they earn from helping you?
Going to events inside your industry is primary if you want to build a network which will empower you to succeed in business. Going to those events can actually lead you to get your first early adopters.
Giving a talk there is often pretty easy. Presenting yourself as an influencer in a specific niche, getting your words out there to a larger audience.
Here are some ressources you can use in order to find events in your niche:
12. Word of Mouth
WOM is very powerful. You can actually get people to talk about your offering. Who is more likely to become a customer, the one that has never heard about your product, or the one who have been referred to by a friend?
To generate WOM, you have to create a product people can talk about. Something that is helpful to them and that they want to share with their peers.
You can also encourage WOM by directly asking people to talk about your product. During your early days, it’s completely acceptable to ask your first customers if they have anyone to refer you to.
13. Power base
We all have our own network. Facebook and LinkedIn are the perfect example that everybody knows a lot of people. Use this network to talk about your offering.
Our network, are people we know. Those people are way more likely than others to help you and talk about your product. Use your network wisely.
To take advantage of your Power base, go through your contact list on Social Networks, and then contact personally everybody that could help you out.
Keep in mind that you need to exchange value regularly with those people. Someone you haven’t talked to in 2 years may not even remember you…
14. Direct Contact
Plenty of online startupeurs forget about this one. It’s not because you sell your service online that you can’t reach out to people directly. Direct Contact is one of nowadays most underestimated channels.
You can easily reach out to people that might be interested inside your offerings. Don’t forget to do so at various times during your project.
You could for instance reach people before launching your idea to validate your first assumptions. You could also reach out to them when your service is ready to check if they are still interested.
Finally, don’t put all your efforts on Direct Contact as it can’t scale. So be sure to develop others channels that can scale.
When you have an innovative product, getting PR can be very easy. Journalists & Writers are eager to discover your offering so they can talk about it.
However, PR follows a very specific procedure. Rare are the journalists that will contact you by themselves to write about you. You have to contact them with a Press Release if you ever want to be noticed.
While you could do PR yourself, there is a lot of services out there to help you, write & distribute your press releases. You could for instance use Pressking.
Although Affiliation can’t work in most industries, SaaS Startups are very good candidates. Affiliation is the practice of sharing revenue with the people who refer you customers.
People are using Affiliation since mankind, so should you. Develop an Affiliation program can help you to reach new wide and large audience. You could for instance show banners on many websites and share your revenue with the site’s owners.
Distributing SaaS applications is very hard. Your website may be your main distribution channel, however, don’t forget about oters, like Platforms.
Those websites acts like Directory of application where you can discover new Web Apps and add yours. Sometimes even for free.
GetApp is one of them. They prove many times that the system was worth it.
Getting your voice out there is primary if you want to develop your startup and to become an influencer. Many websites can help you to reach Customers through innovative ways.
Q&A websites like Quora can help you do just that. You could answer questions on subject you master. Getting your name (and your startup) in a new ecosystem.
Participating can be extremely powerful. However, be sure to add value with great content. If you just write for the sake of writing, people will notice it, and in a bad way.
Forums were a great innovation of the 21st century. Now, people often forget that forums still exist. However, they still do. And there are still people there.
Forums can help you to create credibility and trust inside close communities.
Finally, don’t participate everywhere. You want to be noticed. You don’t want to be a “writer” inside 20 communities where you won’t ever be notified.
Including some levers for Virality inside your application can be very effective. What’s good with virality is that you can often create Organic Growth.
To create virality, you have to consider your own business model and your customers. Offer incentives to people to share your offering and to talk about your product.
There are plenty of ways to communicate about your new startup without spending any money. So take advantage of all those ways and find your own.
Spending money on communication should only happen after reaching the PMF. Before the PMF, your main aim should be to validate your Value Proposition and your hypothesis. Spending money at this point on communication is useless as you’ve no idea what your business will be like in the following months.
All those methods can allow you to build a successful business over time. Some could also help you to validate your hypothesis without spending any money.
Choose the methods you want to use wisely. Don’t focus on all of them. However, be sure to test most of them and apply them to your own business.
I’m Pierre Lechelle and I’ve been working in the tech ecosystem building businesses for about 10 years. I’m now focused on helping MadKudu to reach $100M in ARR. Connect with me on LinkedIn.