There’s a lot of emphases put on paid channels – especially for startups in scale mode. The general game startups play is that once you raise that series A or series B, it’s likely that your marketing budget’s going to increase 5 or 10X because what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to get to scale faster. You’re trying to build and move faster than ever before. You’re trying to beat your competition. You’re trying to get hyper-fast, hockey stick growth.
But in the early days, you likely don’t have money, so you’re going to obviously be looking for free ways of driving growth.
In business to consumer products (B2C), a lot of the high growth startups have been able to figure out network effects in their product. A network effect is possible when more value is created for users as new users come on board. Facebook is a great example where the more of your friends that get on the network, the more value you receive on the network, because the more things you get to see them doing. That creates stickiness for the consumer. What’s more, more value is created for the advertisers – because you’re spending more time on Facebook.
In the business to business (B2B) space, it’s a lot different. There typically aren’t any network effects you can lean into, so you’re really going to be grinding it out for demand generation and lead generation. That said, there are some free ways to drive growth if you’re willing to be patient.
Some free ways that you can drive growth include things like:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO). By building out content and getting it indexed, you’ll be able to steer organic search traffic to your site. SEO can play a critical role in your growth, and is why so many companies focus on content marketing and writing copy for the web (especially in the B2B space). Keep in mind that while SEO carries no cost, you will have a production cost around generating the content itself, so keep that in mind. But – compare that to if you’re using paid channels, where you’re going to pay for every single visitor to the site from those paid channels and SEO becomes a really great channel. When you’re just getting started and have no traction yet, and no users to to share the love about your product, a good place to focus is in SEO to start driving free demand.
- Referrals. Once you get people using your product, ask them to refer their friends, colleagues and family. You may even be able to incentivize the referral program either monetarily or with gamification.
- Word-of-mouth. Having a great product is hands down the best way to drive free growth, as users will tell others about how much they love your product.
- Consider building an email acquisition strategy right way and start capturing emails from visitors to your product. Email works in just about every industry and every product I’ve come across. Contrary to some folks saying email is going away, it’s only getting more relevant as social channels get flooded, and email continues to be the backbone of communication for almost every product. If you’ve got organic channels driving traffic to your site, and you can capture an email, then you can market to those people via email. And all of that is essentially free.
- Partnerships. Find companies that are complementary or even similar in nature as yours, reach out, and build a relationship with them. Offer to promote their content on your site, and ask them to do the same.