Careers & Business

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How to market your startup

Competition has always played a significant role in the business world, and today's business owners know that the competition for customers is a never-ending battle. For startup owners, that competition can prove even more challenging.

Successful startups often credit their initial marketing efforts as a linchpin of their evolution from startup to successful business. Marketing a startup involves careful consideration of a host of factors, and what's proven successful for one company will not necessarily produce similar results for another. But there are some elements of marketing a startup that owners can employ regardless of the type of business they're beginning.

* Keep your initial focus narrow. Successful startups often start with a small target customer base and go from there. Though it can be tempting to market your business to any and all potential customers, targeting a small number of customers who are most likely to help you establish the business could be more in line with your initial meager marketing budget. Once those customers you initially targeted have helped you establish and grow your business, you can then consider targeting a broader customer base.

* Use local media to your advantage. Local media can be a friend to startups if the owners of those startups allow them to be. Contact the local newspaper and local radio station to let them know your business is opening. Let local newspaper reporters try your product and write a review, and go on local radio to announce your grand opening, which should include some type of incentive (free food, product raffles, etc.) to attract potential customers. Local media benefits when local businesses thrive, so developing a partnership with local media early on can prove beneficial to your startup for years to come.

* Use social media to your advantage. Traditional media isn't the only media startup owners can use to their advantage. Social media is another way to engage customers; just be sure to use your social media platform for more than just promotion. While promoting products is a great way to use social media, such platforms also are an ideal way to share interesting information about your products and even you and your employees. Social media platforms now vary greatly, and each can be employed in different ways. For example, Instagram is a great way to share photos of new products or in-store events, while Facebook can be a great tool to share the story of your business and how it came to be.

* Reward loyal customers. Customers love to know their loyalty is being rewarded, and incentivizing that loyalty is a great way for startups to establish a customer base. LoyalBlocks, for example, is a loyalty-marketing tool for traditional brick-and-mortar businesses that allows them to connect with their customers, who can earn special offers or rewards toward products each time they check in on their smartphones when making purchases in the store. The cost of enrollment in such a program or the cost of incentivizing purchases will likely prove negligible the larger and more loyal your customer base becomes.

* Don't shy away from recognition. Recognition of your efforts is a great way to build a strong reputation, so don't be afraid to participate when communities are doling out awards to local businesses. You may or may not need to apply for such awards, but don't feel sheepish if you must apply. Awards make for great (and often free) publicity, and awards are earned on merit, so they're nothing to be embarrassed about.

Building a startup can be as challenging as it can be rewarding. Marketing plays a significant role in many successful startups, and there are many steps startup owners can take to market their business effectively.

The Orange County Register Advertising Department