Startup Muster has been surveying Aussie startups for five years now. Startups are notoriously volatile, popping up and disappearing without much indication. So when it comes to our annual collection period where we aim to reach as many founders as we possibly can, how do we find everyone, new and old?
Here are our top 5 tips for spreading the word about what you’re doing to reach new audiences.
In previous years we’d run national tours, visiting capital cities and regional areas in every state. Our cofounder, Monica Wulff, gave talks, partook in panels, visited coworking spaces and generally just got in front of as many people as possible to spread the word about what we do. And it worked really well! Over the first four years the community answered over 300,000 questions.
Physical presence across a geographic region you’re targeting is a huge factor in building a relationship, building trust, and getting to know your customers. This year we were unable to do the tour so to add a physical element to the collection period we sent care packages to coworking spaces around the country, with posters, thank you cards, stickers, and Startup Muster lollies.
If you’ve got some key interstate or international clients, send them something edible and a handwritten card just to say thanks. It’s the thought that counts.
Don’t double down if it’s not working
Just because “everyone” is on Instagram doesn’t mean you have to be as well. Each social channel (or any marketing channel) has a unique user base. If you can’t connect with customers on a channel, it’s either because your true customers aren’t there, or they’re on there for a reason like leisure instead of looking for B2B products. You need to reach your customers when they’re in the right mindset. This is why Instagram is great if you are a leisure or luxury product, and why LinkedIn is the go-to for B2B products.
Keep a spreadsheet comparing all of the channels your post on for ads and organic content alike and track things like audience change, how many times you’ve posted, and what the best performing post of the week is. We fill this out once a week and from it discovered that the amount of effort we put into our Facebook page and the amount we received back wasn’t worth it, so we’ve since put less importance on it.
Double down if it is working
We tried LinkedIn sponsored posts and InMail, but we got better results from our organic content on the platform, so we doubled down on it and cut all spending. Organic content can be an investment – it takes a lot of time in creation and must be consistent, but it pays off. That’s not to say don’t try ads as well, just make sure you’re comparing it with organic content and testing different styles of ads to see what works best.
Extra tip: don’t expect overnight results, give your ads at least a week before you decided to scrap them or change them up.
Email is far from dead
A common piece of advice for startups is to build an email list, but it’s time to put it to use. On days that we sent emails, our average responses were 116% higher than on days we didn’t send emails. Email can be super fun and creative, we played with nostalgic song titles, shocking subject lines, and good old fashion requests for help. The best thing to do here is make sure our emails are consistent to your branding. Have fun, but don’t be the messy person at the party no one wants to talk to.
One of the emails we sent during the collection period this year had the subject line “Announcing the Startup Muster ICO”. It was the exact opposite of our brand and had a 36% open rate. We got to give people a good giggle and remind them to finish filling out their survey.
Look at what others are doing
Startup Muster is unique in that it’s not really a service or product in the traditional sense so we couldn’t use go-to marketing tactics used by businesses like e-commerce. We did a lot of initial research into political campaign strategies and how charities market themselves.
Find a few campaigns you like and really breakdown what they did, from who they targeted to the type of content to the style of messaging. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Don’t go overboard on this and directly copy things you see, it’s easy to get caught up in “best practice” and end up looking and sounding the same as someone else. The simplest advice is often the best – just be yourself.
Document your marketing efforts so you have data and records to improve the next campaign you do! Don’t just save the final images or video and accompanying copy, document what research went behind it and why that creative direction was chosen. Follow up with a report on where you went well and where you fell short. Include notes on what you’d do differently next time. It doesn’t have to be formal, a Google Doc is more than enough.
And finally, don’t take what anyone (us included!) says as gospel. Every business and every audience is different, do what works for you and play around while you figure out what that is. You don’t need big budgets to get big results, just a little bit of creativity and an openness to talking to your audience directly to see what they like.