How will you tell your company’s story? Knowing what your business is about and the brand image you want to convey will only get you so far. The next step is to determine how you’ll leverage marketing channels to reach enterprise-level clients.
Done well, channel marketing can advance a startup from a small company fighting for attention to one that gains enterprise attention and respect. One way for smaller companies to gain brand credibility and trust is by effectively using the same channels as enterprise companies.
Care.com is a great example of a company that used channel marketing effectively. I had never heard of it; it wasn’t even on the radar. But then, because of a strong TV and online presence, I began to make the connection that the brand was more credible — and so did investors. The company raised $111 million in investment funds before going public in January. (Source: BostonGlobe)
Here’s a look at four main channels startups should consider for their marketing campaigns:
Your ability to reach enterprise-level clients through social media depends on how you’re using it. Most Facebook and Twitter feeds are jam-packed with information, and pinpointing the best time to post or tweet can be a shot in the dark.
To successfully connect with enterprise-level decision makers, you must research their behavior. Real-time social intelligence tools like NUVI and Quintly can help you learn the demographics and psychographics of your social media audience. You can also hire a PR agency to connect you to enterprise clients and navigate through LinkedIn and other networks.
Startups can be a mixed bag when it comes to TV. It’s the most expensive medium to purchase ads on, yet in a world of DVR and TiVo, where people can fast-forward through any commercial, brands at all levels maintain that TV is a critical part of their marketing buy.
Many startups have risen from obscurity through strategic TV buys largely because it’s such a great medium for storytelling. You’re able to get your message across, tell a story, and (hopefully) generate buzz. Travel website Trivago is one example of a company that used TV to leap into the social consciousness of enterprise clients. Their campaign’s leading man spurred conversation on other channels (i.e., social media and online media).
We also saw Old Spice go through this transformation with its “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign, putting the brand back into the social consciousness of “cool.” This goes to show that if you have success in one channel, it can lead to awareness in others.
Digital and Online
Online advertising is a channel that many businesses — from startups to major brands — are exploring. However, companies need to be careful with this channel because certain types of digital advertising and banners are very “Web 2.0.” Now major brands are shifting to content marketing, using the web to not only tell their brand story, but also going back to that more intangible thought leadership position.
Startups should follow suit and capitalize on this opportunity. However, you need to handpick the right online publications and collaborate to develop shareable content. When you develop an effective editorial presence, you start to gain more attention over time. You can also use services like HARO and ProfNet to connect with journalists to get quoted in high targeted industry publications and larger news sites like CNN or the Wall Street Journal.
Grassroots marketing (e.g., company branded t-shirts, promotional items, etc.) is an actual channel and startups love to market themselves through it. When you walk around a conference like South by Southwest, it’s practically a T-shirt gallery. To capitalize on T-shirts and other swag effectively, use them as a show of solidarity. Make sure everyone in your company wears company-branded shirts to conferences. If enough people see the shirts it will start to catch people’s eyes.
Moolah Mystery, an exciting new social community, is another great example of a company that has successfully used unconventional marketing tactics to build awareness. They have taken to hiding envelopes of money in different metropolitan areas to raise brand awareness.
There is no secret sauce for how you can find certain types of customers, get them interested, and convert them. But when you connect with an enterprise client, the channel marketing you’ve explored can provide much-needed credibility.
When enterprise clients can click through to articles you’ve been quoted in or view your marketing campaign, they’ll be able to understand your company holistically. You’ll have to roll up your sleeves to get through the door of such clients, but once you get through, the way you’ve told your story through channel marketing can serve as proof that you’re worth the conversation.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Allison Conkright Engel leads global marketing and operations for the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs. Prior to Dell, Allison worked for various startups, leading their Southwest expansion efforts. She has more than 15 years of experience in media and marketing and has worked for several iconic brands. Connect with @aconkright on Twitter.
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