by Julia Pimsleur, author, speaker and coach, and the founder of Little Pim
Developing your entire marketing strategy, including your brand, messaging, copy, social media, and PR, can feel overwhelming and prohibitively expensive. In the early days of Little Pim, I know that when faced with the marketing dollars I could spend, I wanted the Italian leather boots and all I could afford were the discounted canvas Keds! But there are ways to ramp up your marketing without ramping up your spend.
While digital marketing changes almost daily and you need to keep up with the latest tools and trends, your marketing efforts should keep answering the most important question: How can you consistently reach more people who have the problem you solve? Every entrepreneur needs to be solving a problem, or they do not have a business. Did you start an organic frozen baby food company? Great! You are solving the problem of the busy working mom who wants her baby to eat healthy. Did you create an affordable outsourced bookkeeping agency?Fantastic!You are solving the problem of startups who need bookkeepers but can’t yet afford full time help.
When taken from the problem-solving angle, there are ways to make a small budget (or no budget) look like a lot more when it comes to marketing. One way to better understand how you can deiliver the right marketing message is to “go deep” with your customer. And that means you should ask whether the problem that your company solves is even on your customers’ radar. You might need to make your customers aware of the problem before they know they need your solution! This was our case at Little Pim. We realized that parents didn’t know that children’s ability to learn new languages decreases after age six or that kids who speak two languages have huge advantages over kids who don’t. So it was our job to educate them. Once we figured out the “what,” we then had to figure out the “how.”
The 75/25 rule of marketing budgets
Sometimes, your marketing efforts can feel completely worthless. How do you know what’s working and what’s not? I found myself asking that question too. At Little Pim, we spent our first two years throwing marketing spaghetti at the ceiling and seeing what stuck. We tried pretty much everything under the sun, from cross-marketing with other brands, to getting celebrities to use our products, to hiring inexpensive PR firms, to aggressive SEM campaigns. I used to love when our investors started conversations with “Have you ever tried…” I was always like “Yup, we did that too!” As haphazard as it felt at the time, I now realize we gained crucial insight into what would work for us.
First, we realized that we had to implement a strict tracking rule with codes, so each marketing initiative and campaign could be closely tracked for ROAS (Return on Ad Spend).
Second, we decided to start using the 75/25 rule for our budget. That means 75 percent of our budget went towards the methods we knew delivered consistently and 25 was kept for experimenting. For us, the 75 percent was email marketing, SEO, and content marketing. But we didn’t want to stop throwing marketing spaghetti at the ceiling altogether—that’s how we found some cool stuff that worked, like making a video for our homepage, which nearly doubled our conversion rate. So we set aside 25 percent of our marketing budget for experimental tactics. That way, we had a lot less to lose but weren’t missing out on new opportunities either. You never know what creative marketing strategies will work until you try them. For example, we decided to hand out cute little cut out panda cards in Central Park during the holidays with a trackable discount code for parents who wanted to try out Little Pim, and that helped boost our holiday sales.
Here are a few no-cost marketing ideas you can implement right away:
1. Discover how your customers are finding you
No matter what stage you’re in, make sure you find out where your customers are finding you. An easy and low-cost way to accomplish this is by adding a form to your website and asking them how they heard about you. You can also add this step to an email opt-in form, where a customer exchanges key pieces of information (e.g., name and email address) for something of interest (e.g., an ebook, a coupon, a downloadable something, early access to something, etc.). It’s important to know all the ways your customers are finding you so you can invest in the ones that work and not spend money on ones that don’t. You might also find some strategic or cross marketing partners if you find your clients are coming from a few key sources.
2. Your customers need to become raving fans of your company
When your friend tells you about an incredible product or service that solved a burning pain you might struggle with, you’re much more likely to check it out, compared to seeing a banner ad for it on a blog or website you frequent. Why? Because your friends give you unbiased opinions. They’re sharing an experience or trying to be helpful. The product or service they recommend has more credibility because you trust the person telling you about it. That’s word of mouth, and it’s the best marketing money can’t buy!So how can you initiate it? Start thinking about your customers’ happiness. What are they saying to their friends? Are they becoming raving fans of your product or service?
One way to see how likely your customers are to share the benefits of your product or service, without spending money, is sending them a survey that asks how likely they are to recommend your company to a friend. These are called a Net Promoter Score (NPS). Learn to calculate your NPS after running surveys to current customers. Here’s an example of how you can set up a NPS survey in the free tool SurveyMonkey or Typeform:
Even if you get a handful of responses, that’s better than having no information at all. Effective marketing always comes back to a deep understanding of your buyer’s journey through the sales funnel. It’s worth the time investment to sit down with your team and understand your market’s decision chain. It’s also a great stat to share with potential investors (assuming you get a good score. And if you don’t, you can make changes, run it again, and then brag about the way you turned things around!) What’s most important to your customers? Once you nail that down, you can match the perfect offer. The perfect offer could be a free trial, free samples, a discounted offer, or a consultation call. Once they’re in your funnel, it’s your job to educate them about the benefits of what your company offers. The more you know, the better you can market to and serve your customers.
3. Do an audit of your brand
Hold a focus group with current customers (it can even be a set of phone calls) to find out what is working and what isn’t. Maybe your brand needs an update (we re-branded Little Pim after five years in business, and it gave us a chance to start selling into higher end stores and sit alongside more luxury brands in the children’s market). Maybe people can’t see how you are different from your competitors. When is the last time you did a little brand check-in or tune up?
Julia Pimsleur is on a mission to help one million women entrepreneurs get to $1M in revenues by 2020. Julia is an author, speaker and coach and the founder of Little Pim, one of the few women-run businesses backed by venture capital in the country. Little Pim is the leading system for introducing young children to a second language and has won 25 awards for its proprietary Entertainment Immersion Method®. Its products are sold in 22 countries. Julia has raised a combined $26 million in non-profit and for-profit dollars. She wrote “Million Dollar Women: The Essential Guide for Female Entrepreneurs Who Want to Go Big” to help women learn to raise capital and take their businesses further, faster.
More articles by Julia...