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Let’s Talk: What are some innovative and low-cost marketing strategies?

The recent boom in startups has increased competition in the sector and highlighted the need for more creative, targeted, and affordable startup marketing strategies.

The right startup marketing tactics can assist startups in becoming well-known brands. Therefore, one of the most challenging issues for a startup is the cost of marketing.

In this week’s Let’s Talk, our experts discuss low-cost marketing tactics for startups.

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Linda Chen, Chief Marketing and Strategy Office, Cyara

Linda Chen
Linda Chen, Chief Marketing and Strategy Office, Cyara

“Marketers are storytellers, and the best stories have customers at the core.

“Companies invest time and resources to capture the attention of customers, provide a great experience and build long-lasting relationships. Giving customers a platform to recount their journey in their own words can be a very impactful – and cost-effective – marketing strategy for businesses of any size. Upcycling this raw content in various formats, such as short videos and social media posts, creates a bank of assets while ensuring costs are controlled.

“A consistent online presence is also vital to ensure content reaches and retains the attention of your audience. This includes driving engagement, nurturing connections and creating positive brand experiences – or risk your compelling content being seen by no one.

“Customer stories are priceless as they showcase both a company’s values and the impact a product or service has had. But ultimately, to resonate with audiences, the customer must be the hero of the story.”

Daniel Ng, APAC VP of Marketing, Neo4j

Daniel Ng
Daniel Ng, APAC VP of Marketing, Neo4j

“Using data in smart and strategic ways can be a much more affordable and effective form of marketing than traditional mass-market campaigns or advertisements.

“By harnessing connected data, it’s possible to see the whole customer journey and refine elements in real-time. From recommendation systems to personalising customer experiences and capturing feedback, you can not only market more effectively but continuously improve your approach.

“Humanise your marketing efforts to build trust and confidence. Take the approach from a human and value angle, not a product angle. This will help you build better connections with customers, making you more relatable and memorable to your audiences. With the right data, we can know much more about our customers and potential customers and be more relevant to them.

“Ultimately, ineffective marketing wastes time and money while data-driven digital marketing provides better insights in customer needs and product trends which can increase revenue, optimise margins, and improve customer experiences.”

Graeme John, Chief Marketing Officer, Joust

Graeme John
Graeme John, Chief Marketing Officer, Joust

“With a large cohort of consumers interacting with digital channels, there’s fantastic low-cost opportunities to drive brand awareness and acquire new business. However, it’s imperative first intimately to know your audience. Once you’ve done this research, only then can you segment, target and position properly. This stage also sheds light on where your customers are – and provides insights on what channels to utilise.

“If your marketing strategy is focused on just lead generation, there should be a consideration to allow the marketing resources and/or budget for branding. Focusing on just lead generation and not investing in brand is a very low-resolution and short-term approach. Social platforms with high reach are an example of mediums with low cost to entry.

“Short videos about specific topics can yield cut-through and have scope to be put in front of your audience for free. It’s similar with webinars, where the only cost is tech and time.

“Many of our trusted partner brokers use social media platforms to build their personal brand and bring in low-cost leads. Joust provides them with an additional source of leads to bolster their sales pipeline. We tend to use a holistic approach encompassing paid performance and above-the-line with multiple touch points prior to conversion.”

Kristyn Wallace, Vice President APJ, Emarsys

Kristyn Wallace
Kristyn Wallace, Vice President APJ, Emarsys

“Today’s consumers have the luxury to choose when, where and how they engage with a brand – so marketers must reach customers through highly personalised experiences to reap results. With these three strategies we use at Emarsys, marketers can deliver innovative campaigns and secure customer loyalty without blowing their budget.

  1. Engage anywhere. A great way to do this is through Conversational Channels, where marketers can make sure they’re able to strike up conversations with their customers on the channels they use – engaging customers on preferred chat channels like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Instead of sending a one-off message, you can have a conversation to talk about promotions or special offers, remind them about a product they’ve left in their cart.
  2. Personalise everywhere. Listening to your customers and reacting accordingly is necessary for highly relevant personalised experiences. The Mobile Wallet feature allows marketers to launch campaigns using wallet passes. Whether it’s a voucher, coupon, loyalty card, or event ticket — these wallet passes give you an opportunity to engage customers in a highly personalised way and deliver value to them through their mobile device.
  3. Reach anyone. You need the ability to reach anyone, no matter the audience or scale of your business, to retain your customer base. To give marketers more power to achieve their omnichannel customer engagement goals, siloed data must be broken down. By breaking down data silos to help you better reach your customers, customers will benefit from having a more seamless experience with your brand, no matter which channel they’re on.”

Simon McDonald, Vice President Sales ANZ, Optimizely

Simon McDonald
Simon McDonald, Vice President Sales ANZ, Optimizely

“As businesses prepare for the festive season amid inflation and a looming recession, they can no longer just rely on customer loyalty. Recent Salesforce research reveals 55% of Australian shoppers will switch brands due to pricing. With inflation impacting both consumers and businesses alike, this is where implementing innovative, yet low-cost marketing strategies can help mark your business as the brand of choice even with shoppers’ purse strings tightening.

“This is a critical time of the year for retail businesses with many of our customers attributing 68% of their yearly revenue during this quarter. As such there is a lot of pressure on marketers to deliver results. To be successful, marketers will need to adapt their business’ capabilities to use data and influence the customer experience (CX) to drive buying decisions. Through data-driven insights, they will be able to personalise CX across multiple channels.

“Importantly, it’s not just about implementing the right tech solutions – it’s also about strategy. Testing and experimentation are key to forming a robust personalisation strategy and understanding how well the business uses its data. In doing so, marketers will be able to look at how good the strategy is in times when it counts and build a better understanding of their customers’ buying decisions during this period. Ultimately this will help to deliver ROI and convert customers now and in the future.”

Lisl Pietersz, Transition and communication coach, University of Sydney

Lisl Pietersz, Transition and communication coach, University of Sydney

“Below are five budget-friendly marketing tips to engage customers in a noisy marketplace. As you roll out your marketing activity, be sure to leverage captivating ideas, with a call to action, as they could ignite buzz for your brand or service and deliver marketing innovation.

Kickstart SEO. Create a free Google My Business listing and start your SEO journey. An early step is to review keywords that prospects and customers search for online and use those words in your content to help boost inbound traffic.

Get social media savvy. Build your brand profile on platforms that your prospects and customers visit and make sure you post engaging content regularly.

Create media opportunities. Securing positive media coverage boosts customer perceptions about your brand and its claims. A communications professional can help you to extend your newsworthy story into opinion editorials or bylined articles, for example.

Use content marketing. Content includes blogs, customer testimonials, instructional videos, podcasts, and infographics which can be packaged and sent to your customer mailing list. Your website is usually the starting point to capture leads for your email list which usually takes time to build.

Offer webinars and online training. Showcase what your brand offers via webinars and online training. This is where you can also promote a free consultation of your service or product trial.”

Hector Perez-Nieto, Marketing Director, Freelancer.com

Hector Perez-Nieto
Hector Perez-Nieto, Marketing Director, Freelancer.com

“Our latest report found a lot of businesses are pausing expensive advertising and pivoting towards low-cost strategies. Businesses on Freelaner.com are doubling down on SEO and viral video creators, for example. These tactics can be incredibly successful when built on top of innovative positioning strategies.

“Low-cost channels reward not who shout the loudest, but those who resonate more with their audience.

“Finding a unique niche that your business, large or small, can truly own with a charismatic brand voice, is what can then be amplified successfully on earned (read: low-cost) media.

“It is no longer viable to be the “best pizza” and throw money at that message. In our current environment, it is far more effective to be ‘the best vegan pizza for families’.

“We see business be more daring in their marketing and try things that just a few years ago would’ve scared any marketer. We can say then that “innovation” is not a magic ingredient. It is a frame of mind to be creative and dare to take risks – in exchange for enormous returns.”

Doriena Parsons, National Head of Strategic Communications, Moore Australia

Doriena Parsons
Doriena Parsons, National Head of Strategic Communications, Moore Australia

“The best low-cost marketing strategy is to lay the foundations right and to give yourself the best head start.  The 7 ps of marketing are a great place to start: product, pricing, promotion, people, place, process and physical evidence. Alternatively, the Business Model Canvas provides a great way to approach your revenue and pricing structure, proposition and targeting.

“Once you have got those right, make sure your brand is on point and clearly identifies who you are and what you offer. Remember: there’s no point in offering something the market doesn’t want or need, or something that is confusing.

“Set up all the free channels that are available and relevant to you, but don’t over-stretch yourself. At a minimum, you’ll need a Google MyBusiness listing, relevant social channels and a functioning website. Identify where your target audience and ideal customer like to hang out online and get yourself an account there too.

“Once you have your channels set up, it’s all about content. Content is hugely important in relation to Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and building brand/domain credibility. Great content will establish you as an expert and reliable source. This applies to all formats: written, video, audio and photography. Social media platforms are effectively search engines, so using language and hashtags your audience is interested in will also help you. Not sure where to start? There are great free tools out there like Answer The Public that give you a starter for ten. Whatever you do with your content, cover the 3 R’s: Real, Reliable, Referenceable or Repeatable.

“Talk to journalists and editors and keep an eye out for case study requests. Journalists are always looking for good case studies and reliable experts, and a brand mention in a reputable media outlet will help your brand credibility.”

Kieron Wogan, CMO, Carbar

Kieron Wogan
Kieron Wogan, CMO, Carbar

“When it comes to low-cost, high-impact marketing strategies, common sense is king. Start with your customer and work backwards.

“So many businesses fail to get the basics right and miss capitalising on their existing investments. Talk to your customers or get some feedback using a survey. Not only will this re-engage them, if you ask the right questions, you’ll quickly discover opportunities for low-cost product, pricing, distribution and promotional strategies.

“Use those insights to be creative in how you orchestrate and execute conversations in your own channels, such as web, email and SMS. Use these channels to re-engage leads and customers and invite reviews and referrals. Once you get that organic sales engine started, you can focus on scaling your advertising, knowing you’re leaving no sales on the table.”

Anurag Vasisth, CEO, Loyalty Now

Anurag Vasisth, CEO, Loyalty Now

“The Australian retail sector is increasingly crowded and competitive. Effectively boosting your marketing strategies, easily and cost-effectively, is a key differentiator for local merchants vying for attention.

“Shifting to debit or credit card-linked loyalty programs is an easy marketing strategy that can bolster personalisation to prevent customer churn, increase revenue, and sharpen the competitive edge, all while gathering all-important, real-time customer data. And for the strongest return on investment, retailers can use this data to tailor future strategies more effectively.

“A great loyalty program connects consumers to the merchant and, when leveraged correctly, consumers are 80 per cent more likely to download apps, twice as likely to subscribe to email and push notifications, and three times as likely to engage with social media platforms, further boosting existing marketing efforts.

“In such a competitive market, every incremental advantage can make a difference to already strapped marketing budgets.”

Mellissah Smith, Founder, Robotic Marketer

Mellissah Smith
Mellissah Smith, Founder, Robotic Marketer

“The top marketing strategy for any business is to have a marketing plan in place. Many businesses believe that a ‘to do list’ will suffice, until they realise that it isn’t working. Your business is 414% more likely to achieve success with a documented marketing strategy in place.

“When businesses don’t have a substantial marketing budget, the best marketing strategy is to do tactics that rely on people not money. Savvy entrepreneurs tend to focus on content to drive awareness and generate leads. From blogging, videos and email marketing through to social media posts, webinars and public relations, content can help your business sell more products and services if done with the customer in mind.

“Simply by being creative in your social media posts and ensuring that you use techniques such as hash tags, tagging and trending topics will be influential in generating exposure.

“Social media has opened up a plethora of opportunities for companies with little or no marketing budget, but the catch is that you must be creative in your approach and centre on customer experience.”

Steve Jaenke, CEO, Digimark Australia

Steve Jaenke
Steve Jaenke, CEO, Digimark Australia

“Marketing is all about understanding your customer and focusing on their challenges and what they actually want to achieve. Getting pulled into promoting products and services is easy, but taking the time to understand the key challenges your customers face will pay dividends in the long run.

“Through customer research, you’re able to ascertain what questions they are asking, and from those questions, you can create video and blog content that resonates with them. You’re able to meet them where they are spending their time and offer deeper communication rather than superficial, basic marketing communication. By understanding your customers, you’re able to improve your reputation management and promote brand loyalty.

“The best part, understanding your customer just takes time, and there is a 10x return on investment.”

Jemma Healy, Marketing Manager, Tecala

Jemma Healy
Jemma Healy, Marketing Manager, Tecala

“Focus on three key areas to deliver innovative and cost-effective marketing strategies.

“First up is strategy.  Define messaging that is relevant to your target audience and delivered in a compelling and engaging way. You can gain deep customer insights to understand Ideal Customer Profiles through some simple customer interviews, where findings are gathered into an overview that informs the sales and marketing team of the needs, challenges, possible objections and buyer journeys that an organisation’s most profitable customers typically experience. These insights should be the basis of every campaign.

“Secondly, focus on your tactics.  Incorporate both omnichannel and multi-touch to increase visibility and opportunities to connect. Every campaign should include tactics across inbound and outbound efforts. Deliver the campaign and message through outreach cadences, paid media, public relations, and supporting content optimised for search, organic social and live events.   Remain front of mind with your prospects and land the message with the right people, at the right time and through multiple avenues.

“Finally, measure! For campaigns to evolve and drive better business decisions, the impact and effectiveness of each campaign must be continually tracked and optimised. Taking an agile approach to marketing ensures that these efforts can be optimised throughout and not discovered in the post-campaign report for next time.”

Alex Frolov, CEO and Co-Founder, HypeAuditor

Alex Frolov
Alex Frolov, CEO and Co-Founder, HypeAuditor

“As Australian businesses continue to navigate the ‘new normal’ following the aftermath of the pandemic, influencer marketing offers a cost-effective avenue to engage and connect with customers, generate new leads and build a more personal, approachable digital presence, all while cutting down on mass scale expensive promotional efforts. When retailers and influencers collaborate, they create a more authentic connection with their target audience, which generates more engagement and a higher return on investment for marketing campaigns. In fact, according to a study by Influencer Marketing Hub, content from influencers earns more than 8 times the engagement rate of content shared directly from companies.

“Australia’s 20.5 million social media users coupled with the growing ecommerce market created the perfect opportunity for social media companies to roll out new products and tools, such as Instagram Shops to capitalise on this trend. As a result, retailers are increasingly using social media as a sales engine and influencers will continue to play a key role in pushing products more aggressively.

“In 2023 and beyond, consumers will make even more purchases that are directly influenced by influencers and social media. It is a trend that is likely to become a prominent part of the retail landscape. So if retailers and businesses want to cash in on this trend, they need to be in it to win.”

Andreas Schimkus, Director, We Wander Pty Ltd

Andreas Schimkus, Director, We Wander Pty Ltd

“We’re always looking for new ways to spread our marketing dollar.  Finding collaborative and like-minded brands is an aera that’s worked well, especially over social media platforms.  We recently worked with décor Australia for example.  We also constantly look at our website, branding and communications to ensure they’re working effectively.  This is a relatively low-cost marketing tool and can be tweaked depending on your back-end data and needs.  This also applies to our EDM’s – again refreshing and renewing this tool is relatively low-cost and super effective.  LinkedIn has also proved to be a good tool We Wander especially in the corporate area where we are seeing big growth as an alternate corporate gift for companies such as car dealerships and real estate.”

Suzette Bailey, CEO and co-Founder, reKnow

Suzette Bailey
Suzette Bailey, CEO and co-Founder, reKnow

“Create business accounts and regularly publish to social channels to reach potential customers for zero cost. Try to publish regularly, sharing valuable content, engaging in the right conversations, and even hosting events and contests via social networks commonly used by your prospects.

“This links to content marketing, creating and sharing valuable content that resonates with your target audience. This could be blog posts, articles, infographics, videos, or podcasts. Promote them via your social channels to draw prospects back to your website. You may also create content for media outlets, such as articles, or guest on video channels and podcasts to reach more people.

“Email marketing is also a great cheap way to engage with prospects. Collect email addresses ethically via your website, by offering access to a valuable email newsletter or industry insights. Stay in touch with prospects and customers via regular emails – newsletters, special offers and personal messages.

“Finally, optimise your website content for search engines and create site maps for search engines. This helps you rank higher in search results. Find popular terms your audience uses and own them by integrating them into your content, so search traffic flows your way.”

Ricky Blacker, Senior Sales Engineer and WordPress Evangelist, WP Engine

Ricky Blacker, Senior Sales Engineer and WordPress Evangelist, WP Engine

“Tracking UX design and enabling a variety of payment gateways are two cost-effective ways businesses can make a difference in attracting customers and closing sales. Following the pandemic and the shift to increasing digitisation, websites have become an important consumer touch point and an integral component of communication for brands. While marketing has traditionally focused on pushing sales, product features and packaging, the website is often neglected – even though it can make or break a customer’s purchase decision.

“Understanding the end-user experience, by implementing a system to track UX metrics, is key in curating a website that is accessible and engaging to existing and potential customers. Gathering metrics on load times, page views and session lengths, as well as how users interact with the site can help understand and meet customer needs, moving them seamlessly from awareness and consideration to conversion.

“Incorporating a variety of reliable payment gateways is another simple way to increase consumer trust and to help seamlessly transition the consumer to finalise the transaction. While website optimisation can seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be. A good hosting platform and simple website design tweaks can significantly improve performance.”

Ben Rutherford, Head of Marketing, Apricity Invoice Finance

Ben Rutherford
Ben Rutherford, Head of Marketing, Apricity Invoice Finance

“With limited resources, it’s essential to be creative and capable of leveraging existing marketing assets.

“Generating social media content that is relevant, engaging, and shareable whilst provoking conversation is a great start and doesn’t need to cost you a cent.

“Adding a blog to your website, with regular, curated contributions that offer value and information, can help drive SEO, establishing you as a leader in your industry.

“Hosting virtual events such as webinars is cost-effective, particularly with quality content and popular participants willing to share their expertise. Offering the option of further engagement via Q&As or (if relevant) benefits such as Continued Professional Development (CPD) points can really ensure a decent impact. More importantly, they allow you to attract an audience unrestricted by location and use data captured through registration details for future communications.

“Submitting nominations for relevant awards can be an easy win. If you’re fortunate enough to win or be included in the conversation, it helps build credibility and attract attention which is a win-win for brand awareness.”

Katie Ashford, Director – Customer Marketing and Engagement, WE Communications Australia

Katie Ashford
Katie Ashford, Director – Customer Marketing and Engagement, WE Communications Australia

“Low-cost marketing strategies call for creativity and laser focus to reach your marketing objectives.

  1. Know your audience
    In developing a marketing plan, you must understand who your target customers are. Create a short online questionnaire and incentivise respondent participation with an offer.  Include open-ended questions so you can collect their ideas on how you might improve your offering.
  2. Show them love
    It’s typically five times more expensive to attract a new customer, so make sure you are looking after those you already have. Profile your database to identify your top purchasers and launch a tailored loyalty club to reward them.
  3. Go online, get social
    The internet provides you with a 24/7 storefront. On your website, offer high-quality, relevant content such as blogs and videos. If you can commit the time, invest in social media channels to keep your brand front of mind.
  4. Leverage PR
    A media story about your company is generally more valuable than an advertisement, but journalists are looking for compelling stories to tell, so let them know about your product or service innovations, interesting customers, or marketing gambles that paid off.

“Lastly, connect the dots on all these activities to amplify your marketing investment.”

Phil Sylvester, General Manager NSW, Media Stable

Phil Sylvester
Phil Sylvester, General Manager NSW, Media Stable

“You can’t get a lower marketing cost than “free” publicity. Having your brand heard on the radio, seen on TV or read in print is very powerful. There’s no advertising blindness when the mention is part of the editorial coverage. The implied endorsement transfers the authority of the trusted media outlet onto you and your brand. But if earned media is so good, why isn’t everyone doing it? While it is low cost, it is also difficult to execute.

“You need to build relationships of trust with the media, and you have to deliver content that is valuable to them, especially to their audience. How? Don’t sell a product (take out an advert for that) but share your expert knowledge generously, always with a view to how what you say will benefit the lives of the media audience. It also helps enormously if you speak “journalist,” i.e. know the aims of each outlet and understand their production processes.”

Julie Medeiros, Founder,  Miss M Online Classes

Julie Medeiros
Julie Medeiros, Founder,  Miss M Online Classes

“If we talk about an ecommerce business, marketing strategies should be viewed from the point of view of driving quality traffic to the website. Luckily, there are a few that require time and consistent effort, and not necessarily financial investment. Among them are partnerships with brands that serve the same target customers with a different product. By creating a win-win deal, both parties benefit from cross-referrals that allow to grow traffic and checkout value for both sellers and customers.

“Another low cost marketing strategy for an online business is user-generated content. It involves two-way communication and contribution by customers around a problem for which a brand offers a solution.

“A so-called community for people to talk about different aspects of the matter, whether through guest submissions, roundup quotes or sharing of personal experiences not necessarily related to the product, but to the bigger problem the product addresses. This helps build trust in the brand and provides website traffic which is often a costly thing to acquire.”

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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