5 power tips for startups and small businesses to improve marketing

Even as different geographies brace for varying modes of unlock, startups and small businesses continue battling a common problem: survival.


Whether your startup is bootstrapped, funded or incubated, or your business isn’t huge, you are most likely fighting what might be your toughest crises. But surviving is not enough, right? You’ll need to grow. And for that, you’ll need to keep sharpening your axe so that you get more done with fewer resources.

Here is a list of five activities you can consider taking up during this lean phase.

Each of these five activities share two features. One, each activity is directly or indirectly aimed at improving your sales and marketing abilities. Two, each activity is either free or extremely low cost.

1. Dig into research

Let’s begin with an oft-ignored activity.

Most startups and small-businesses are characterized by tremendous speed and a near-crazy style of working. In such a situation, it’s common to not devote enough time to study research literature.

Now is the time to go back to the basics and see what research can teach you.

This research could be the one you conducted while you were in the early stage, contemplating a launch. Or it could be a piece of third-party research.

The biggest advantage of studying research is that it systematizes and optimizes your learning.

A single document can give you insights that can help you better pitch your product or service.

What more can you ask for?

2. Improve your email data quality

You’ll want to scrub your email list for a number of reasons, but we’ll talk about just two of them.

One, an estimated 22% email addresses turn invalid every year. Sending mails to invalid addresses only results in email bounce back, which, in turn, increases your chance of being labeled a spammer.

And two, addresses like “sales@” or “marketing@” (called Role Addresses) show poor engagement. They are also more likely to mark your mail as spam, because your email reaches not one, but many people.

That’s why it’s important to remove such email addresses from your email list. Spotting invalid or poor quality email addresses is called email verification, for which a number of services are available. This comparison of bulk email verification services will help you find the one that best meets your requirements.

Fortunately, most such email validating tools are freemium and if your mailing list isn’t very big, you’ll probably be able to clean up your list for free or for the price of no more than a couple of cappuccinos.

3. Analyze customer case studies

Understanding how different customers use your product or tool will give you a better appreciation of the ways they engage with your offerings. And that takes you to the next level: developing diverse use cases.

Say, your tool was designed to help marketers get better insights of their campaigns. Maybe if you look closer, you might spot how a certain recruitment agency used it to filter resumes. Suddenly, it opens a new segment. It was just waiting for you to look deeper.

Maybe you have one customer from a particular industry but have you pitched to the remaining organizations of that industry? Case studies can remind you to cold-call organizations you might have missed.

If you haven’t created customer case studies, do it right now. They will serve as great marketing assets as well as sources of insights.

4. Revisit your site

Fully audit your site.

You can do this yourself, but it’d be better if you can get a few friends to do it as well. Be sure to choose friends that don’t understand your business and your industry well. That way, you’ll know how visitor-friendly your site is.

Have them open multiple tabs. In one tab, open your own website and in the rest, open your competitors’. Let them visit competitors’ websites first. Then ask them to go through your website.

Note the differences. Unearth what stuff your competitors are doing great and you aren’t. Pay attention to the latest styles and how your competitors are leveraging that.

Discuss this: Is your website truly simple and visitor-friendly? Is the journey smooth? Can a first-time visitor navigate without trouble?

A website that doesn’t provide a great navigation experience to visitors does a lot of damage. It can prevent growth, discourage new sign-ups, undermine digital marketing outcomes, and potentially kill the product.

Work hard on making things easier for your visitors.

5. Exploit sales training

It may sound silly to conduct sales training when your business might be fighting to survive. And yet, you need sales skills during such downturns more than at any other times.

You don’t have to spend tons of money and hire a super-star sales trainer (though it’s quite likely you’d get a good discount if you’re considering one!).

Here’s three of the many ways you can avail sales training for almost free:

  1. Leverage local bodies

Nearly all local business, industry and trade associations have hugely increased their webinar activities during the lockdown. Identify the ones you find interesting and attend their programs. In-person events may also help you with a bit of networking.

  1. Use in-house talent

Remember Buck Rodgers saying “At IBM, everybody sells!”?

It’s a great idea to follow. You or one of your sales pros can conduct online sessions on how selling works in your industry and include everyone from your team, designer, coder, finance, all.

Such training changes everyone’s perception of how critical selling is to business and why all functions must align with the customer’s expectations.

  1. Check out digital courses

There are some really awesome courses on digital learning platforms like CourseEra, Udemy, and so on. Take time to check out the free as well as paid ones. You can also explore guides that can help you simplify various forms of digital marketing. For instance, this beginner’s guide to email marketing is a great place to begin.

Important: Don’t just watch the videos or read guides. Make sure you discuss and dissect them with your teams.

Winding up

The challenge startups and small businesses need to overcome today is to not just survive but also come out of the Covid-19 pandemic as an organization that’s better skilled, better prepared to woo, win and retain customers.

Your business too will benefit by going back to the basics. Studying research trends, improving your data quality, understanding your customers again, taking a fresh look at your website, and leveling up your sales skills will help you emerge stronger.

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