Marketing for Startups – Case of Startuptravels

Let’s face it. It can be a challenge to be noticed as a new startup with limited or no resources. We are all competing for the attention of the audience and most tech entrepreneurs are dreaming of being featured in TechCrunch or a similar media with millions of potential users and customers. Reality is that most startups never reach the news feed of TechCrunch and has to come up with additional ways to be noticed by the target audience. Marketing for startups is a challenge!

The good news is that you don’t have to be Nike to do marketing and be noticed by the users or customers. You can achieve some of the same results by being creative. Truth be told, it is way cooler to create something of value that people are willing to share than to pay millions of dollars to achieve the same result.

In this blog post I want to touch upon three marketing tactics we have used previously in Startuptravels (Waaay back in the beginning) and continue to use because we can see it has an effect without being costly. You can apply this to your own business and find ways to target your own audience

We asked ourselves: “How can we get the most exposure without spending too much?” After having brainstormed for a few hours we came up with a lot of ideas and decided to go with three of the ideas.

Marketing idea: Business cards at the library

It is probably not a surprise that we are targeting entrepreneurs in our marketing. The more entrepreneurs we have on the platform, the more value we provide for all others. We asked ourselves the question: “How do we get noticed by other entrepreneurs?”

Have you ever read a book on entrepreneurship? If you are like 99% of other entrepreneurs’ chances are that you, at some point, have read a book related to entrepreneurship. We decided to print 5000 cards with the simple text: “Entrepreneur or just love business” on the front and “Startuptravels.com – Meet local entrepreneurs while traveling” on the back. We ordered them at Vistaprint along with our Startuptravels t-shirt but there are a thousand online shops where you can buy similar cards.


Startup Marketing Startuptravels

Stocked up with more than 5000 cards, we went to the library at Copenhagen Business School and the main library in Denmark to find the section where all the entrepreneurship books are stored. We started to find the most popular books on entrepreneurship and slipped a card into these books. When we had placed a card in the most popular books, we continued with the less popular, and in the end we had almost left a business card in every single book related to entrepreneurship.

This is a very easy (and cheap!) way of doing target marketing, and it will only take you a couple of hours. We have done this in now several locations, and it works! Is it wrong? Do you think so? What I want to illustrate with this marketing approach is that by being creative you can potentially reach a much more targeted audience than what you first imagined. Keep in mind and make sure to provide so much value that the people opening the book are happy you put it there in the first place.

Who knows if it could be your next investors or co-founder who picked up the book? More importantly what do you have to lose? Stock up and start running.

Marketing idea: Walking billboards

Business cards in a library book can be powerful because you never know who is going to pick it up. Another approach to marketing is t-shirt marketing, which gives you real time results and feedback on the spot. We wanted to be walking billboards.

When we ordered our 5000 cards we also ordered 20 t-shirts with a custom design on it. I came up with a catchy phrase and something that would catch the eyes of by passers.

First day I was wearing the t-shirt I was sitting at a café talking to our CTO, Henrik. While talking to Henrik about Startuptravels, this lady walked over to me and asked me about Startuptravels. She was an entrepreneurs traveling from Greece and was very interested about what we were doing. Today, this lady is the reason why more than 100 people from Greece has signed up to the platform, and we have been in contact with some of the most experienced and awesome entrepreneurs in Athens.

Betty Startup Marketing Startuptravels

Today we are always wearing our t-shirts no matter where we go, because we know how efficient it can be. We have found that we are inviting interested people to talk to us, because they are interested in what you do. This is a great ice-breaker and something that encourages people with an interest to talk to us. Don’t underestimate it. What is the worst that could happen? Nothing. Also, you never have to worry about your outfit again. Score!

Also, we have given out t-shirts away as prices, given them out to people traveling a lot, to key entrepreneurs and other people which we found interesting. We have found this to be a good way of getting some very cheap marketing, through word of mouth promotion.

Note: First badge of t-shirts was ordered with the URL on the back but second badge was ordered with the URL on the front because it was not visible when carrying a backpack. Keep that in mind when you order your stuff.

Marketing idea: Business cards in the airport

What is the most common trait of an entrepreneur? Ambitious? Creative? Proactive? I believe the most powerful and common trait of an entrepreneur is the proactivity. When you send an email we are likely to open it, and when we find cards with the word “Entrepreneur” on it, we pick it up and want to study it further. How could we turn this proactivity into our advantage?

We brainstormed on the most common locations for our target audience, and found a few locations where the airport seemed to be the most obvious one. We figured, since we already had 5000 business cards printed, we might as well try to reach even more people, and not just the ones who had seen it in the libraries.

Whenever we go travel we stock up on cards and leave them places where entrepreneurs would see them in the airport. We put them in trolleys, ATMs and the seats when we leave. Put those business cards inside the magazines at the doctor’s office, in the little docket where you collect your train ticket – we put them where we feel people might look at it and bring it along, if they are an entrepreneur. Be creative and catch the attention of your target audience.

Concluding remarks

There is a fine line between annoying marketing and providing enough value to entertain and make people curious. You have to find that balance. If you found that business card – would you be curious or annoyed? Ask yourself this question every time you engage in alternative marketing approaches. You want to be noticed while being able to protect and create a brand around it.

A few days ago I saw a company who had disguised their marketing as parking tickets in the car windows. How would you feel about that company that just gave you a heart attack? Some think it is hilarious, while others will probably be a bit offended. Remember there is a fine line and stay on the right side of it.

Remember we created a persona at an early stage of Startuptravels? The typical user we gave a name and characteristics in order to identify his needs and wants. You can read more about Carl here.

In order to be efficient in our marketing approach we asked ourselves: Where does Carl go, and how can we approach him while he is there? After having brainstormed for a few hours we came up with a few ideas on how to approach him, which was more targeted than what you read above. You can read some more about this in a future post, when we have tested it.

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