Seven marketing tips for start ups

Attending the BETT Show last week got me thinking – as a small start up, how do you cut through the noise and get noticed? Here are seven suggestions.

Last week I spent a day at the excellent BETT Show in London, one of the biggest education technology trade shows in Europe.

While the exhibition hall was dominated by the big edtech companies – Microsoft, Capita, Smart Board, Lego (yes, really) – what interested me most were the 100-plus start up companies attending. Many were founded by teachers (ex- and current) whose inventions were often born by turning frustrations into opportunities.

It got me thinking: as a small start up business in a crowded market, how do you stand out and get the attention of your target audience? Here are seven ideas I jotted down on the way home.

Offer a referral incentive. Recommendation and word of mouth are important in any industry, and teachers and school leaders especially seem to depend on colleague feedback. Why not offer current customers an incentive to recommend your product? For every new customer they send your way, your cliennt gets 10% off their next order, or a free upgrade, for example. If they value what you do, they should be happy to help spread the word.

Give a free trial in exchange for testimonials. Testimonials on your website and in your promotional material lend credibility. When starting out, it’s worth asking teachers and schools you know to try your product for service for free in exchange for an honest review. If it’s positive, you can use it to promote your product or service. If it’s not as glowing as you hoped, it’s valuable feedback on how to improve your offering.

Utilise influencers, especially on Twitter. Getting the word out can be a challenge in a crowded marketplace. Of all the social media channels, school leaders seem to be most active on Twitter. If you’re targeting a different industry, LinkedIn or Facebook may be where your audience spends the most time. Regardless of the channel, once you set up an account for your business, research who are the influencers in your field, follow them and join the conversation. If what you say and do resonates, they should help spread the word to their followers.

Enter award competitions. Awards build credibility and provide exposure. The BETT Awards for education is an obvious one, but there are many others. Even if you don’t win, the awards dinner and ceremony can be a good place to mingle and make new contacts.

Seek out opportunities to exhibit at education conferences. It can be hard to get heads’ and business managers’ attention when they’re in school. They’re likely to be out dealing with a million and one issues, rather than sitting in an office. Conference exhibitions give you a chance to talk to school leaders when they are less distracted and more receptive. One caveat: To make the most of your exhibition investment, make sure you have in place a marketing plan that makes the most of opportunities leading up to, during, and after the event.

Make sure your branding looks the part, including your website, logo and business cards. Your visual branding says a lot about your company. When done well, it reassures potential customers that you are professional, credible and dependable. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but it’s worth finding a graphic designer who will take the time to understand your business, your audience, and what you want to achieve. I know several who have experience in the sector.

Have a marketing plan and review progress regularly. The risk of not having a marketing plan is that you end up spending time on marketing activity you enjoy or that is most comfortable, but isn’t necessarily the most effective. It’s worth enlisting the support a professional marketing consultant who understands the education market and can help you put in place an objective, realistic, and achievable marketing plan that delivers results.

If you’d like to find out how we can work together to create and deliver a marketing plan for you that will increase revenue, please email me. I’d love to find out more about your business and chat about your ambitions.

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