When it comes to running a startup, you can’t only rely on your organic marketing efforts to contribute to your startup’s growth, especially when investors are right on their toes. What the need is exponential growth. That’s where paid marketing comes in. Use it wisely and you get instant results for your efforts.
Paid Marketing Guide for Startups
Paid marketing is known to bring results for almost all types of campaigns. Whether you are selling leather jackets or solar systems or even rockets, you can sell anything almost instantly using paid channels.
In fact, digital media experts believe that paid marketing is the future of digital marketing. It is one strategy that completely changes the way companies market their products to a target audience. Let’s learn how it can transform your startup into a sustainable business that can sell like hot cake.
What is Paid Marketing?
According to Webopedia, Paid marketing, also known as digital advertising is an advertising model in which advertisers directly target the consumers based on their interests or intent.
It is further divided into social and search marketing, both having their own format of advertisement.
When you do advertising on a search engine, it is called search engine marketing. When you do it on social media, it is called social media marketing. And, when you do it on other websites, it is display marketing, native advertising, or even sponsored posts.
There are many advertising platforms for paid marketing which include, but are not limited to Google Ads, Bing Ads and Yahoo Ads for search engines and Facebook Ads, Pinterest Ads for social media platforms.
Here is a breakup of various ad platforms and the type of audience you can target by using them.
|Platform||Advertising Medium||Audience||Ad Type||Ad Focus|
|1||Social||Interest Based||Sponsored Posts & Mobile Ads||Leads, Awareness and Conversions|
|2||Social||Interest Based||Ad Sponsored Posts & Mobile Ads||Leads, Awareness and Conversions|
|3||Social||Interest & Intent based||Sponsored Posts||Leads, Awareness and Conversions|
|4||Social||Interest Based||Sponsored Posts||Leads, Awareness and Conversions|
|5||Search||Interest & Intent based||Promoted Listing, Display Ads, Mobile Ads||Leads, Awareness and Conversions|
|6||Yahoo||Search||Interest & Intent based||Promoted Listing||Leads, Awareness and Conversions|
|7||Bing||Search||Interest & Intent based||Promoted Listing||Leads, Awareness and Conversions|
|8||YouTube||Search & Social||Interest & Intent based||Video Ads, Display Ads||Leads, Awareness and Conversions
Why Should Startups Focus on Paid Marketing?
Paid marketing is known for instant results. Startups can’t wait three to six months to get sales. They are looking for early traction and quick results so they can modify their strategies if needed. That’s where formulating paid marketing strategy can help startups.
It is better to understand this concept with the help of an example:
Let’s say you own an ecommerce store. Now, in order to know if people are actually interested in your platform, instead of focusing on SEO to rank for various keywords and then get conversions, you will need to run a few tests with paid marketing campaigns just to check what type of results you get, and how to modify your campaigns to move in the right direction. You can call it ‘breaking the ice’ concept for audience familiarization.
SEO vs SEM vs SMM
There is a misconception among most entrepreneurs about SEO and SEM. They think that both are the same thing. However, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is about optimizing your website to rank it higher organically in SERPs. The emphasis here is on ‘organic.’ On the other hand, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is about advertising your brand on the search engine. You will be provided one of the top four advertisement slots when you advertise. This type of advertising is also called PPC marketing.
Similarly, the third concept relates to Social Media Marketing (SMM) that helps you get sales through social media. You target people who are active on a social media platform by sponsoring products so that they show up on their screens. SMM is highly effective for impulse purchases.
Plan a Paid Campaign for Your Startup
You can’t start a paid marketing campaign by simply adding budget to the platform and promoting the content. You will first have to plan a strategy for the campaign and then test its results. Here is how you can plan your paid marketing strategy.
1. Set Goal
First of all, have a clear and Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant and Time (SMART) objective.
For example, you need to sell 1,000 jeans in two months with a budget of $2,000 only.
Specific: Get sales for jeans
Measurable: 1,000 jeans in $2,000 or $2 per sale
Achievable: yes, because $2 is the average conversion rate for clothes in our target market
Relevant: We have to find audience that can buy this type of clothing
Time: Two months for this particular campaign
Setting a goal is essential for achieving your purpose. Without a goal, the business will be clueless about how many sales it needs to become a profitable startup. That’s why in business, accountants, and finance experts sit together to develop goals that they can easily achieve. But since startups don’t always have experts available, the startup founders can set their own goals to reach profitability sooner.
2. Define Your Audience
Once you have set your goal, select a target audience to which you can market your products.
Audience selection for a Fitness Store – Facebook Audience Insights
Let’s get back to the goal that we have set above. We want to sell 1,000 jeans for $2,000 with a Cost Per Conversion (CPC) cost of $2 only.
Now we will search for a relevant audience to sell jeans.
On most paid platforms, one can easily search for a similar audience by selecting pages of their competitors. For example, we can select our audience by selecting ‘Denim,’ ‘Levi’s,’ and ‘Wrangler.’
You can also search with keywords like ‘online shoppers,’ ‘Jeans,’ ‘fashion,’ ‘designer clothes,’ and so on.
Screen grab of Facebook Audience Insights Tool
Once you have the audience selected, the next step is to search for a platform where you can find this type of audience.
So, let’s see what platforms we have available.
3. Identify Platforms for Promotion
The good thing is that the type of audience we are looking for is available on both social media platforms and search engines. But we will select Facebook as our medium because it has a wide range of audience segments and will provide us with enough room to play with.
For those who don’t know about paid platforms, please refer to the platform breakup table we have provided above. It has a list of all the platforms and the type of advertisements they accept.
It is relevant to mention here that identifying platforms for marketing products is essential for small and large ecommerce stores. Because without having the right channel for marketing, paid marketers can easily burn their budget. This can have grim consequences ranging from a gridlock in startup’s operations to even bankruptcy.
Note: It is essential that you keep a small budget for testing various platforms and scale operations once you have the sweet spot.
Experiment, Experiment, Experiment
While this may look obvious, experimentation is the key to any type of marketing practice. Startups usually stop experimentation when they have found the sweet spot and are able to scale their avenues. But a sweet spot will not always remain as such. We have many examples to share with you. One of the most talked about example is of dropshipping. When Facebook started advertisements on its platform, targeting anyone was easy. You could even target a specific person through Facebook advertisements by using their interests. But later, Facebook restricted interest-based selection and now it has become a lot more difficult to target audience based on interests.
Now, what once was a sweet spot is not so sweet anymore. Therefore, marketers need to always experiment with new ways of reaching their desired audience. You can do this by selecting a different audience, changing dynamics, age, or even finding a completely new market.
The best way to start it is by researching:
Whether you are spending a penny or thousands of dollars, research your options wisely so that you don’t lose the money. Researching, also called feasibility study, helps assess whether a paid medium is relevant for achieving your sales target or not.
Every paid platform has a free tool for researching the audience and analyzing the budget. For Facebook, it is Audience insights. You can easily select relevant audience and import it into your ad set through this free tool.
Simply select your competitors and add their names to the ‘interest’ section of the Facebook Insights tool.
Screen grab of Facebook Audience Insights Tool
This way you will be able to know what type of audience is searching for the content. Now, you can add around a dozen competitors and target their audience.
Similarly, Google Ads allow you to advertise your products both with relevance to audience and keywords. This means you can select relevant keywords from similar websites. Suppose you have a startup that markets a tool similar to that of BuzzSumo. You can use the keywords that Buzzsumo is targeting.
Screen grab of Google Ads Platform
Or, you can use audience interest in targeting for the same tool, Google offers both options.
Screen grab of Google Ads Platform
Similar to Facebook, Google offers various options to make targeting more precise such as Household Income, Gender, Age, and a combination of other factors.
Once you have researched the options, start marketing the products through your selected platform.
There are chances that in the beginning, your ad cost would be too high and you will need to optimize them by testing various ad sets and campaign types just to get a fair idea about what is working.
Screen grab of Facebook Ads Platform Dashboard with multiple campaigns running
For example, we tested various post engagement campaigns on social media just to find the campaign that works the best. As you can see, on a campaign we are getting $0.23 for post engagement. It provides the best results so far, so we will move forward with it.
Now that we have the data available, we can test it further by changing demographics, age, budget, or even interests. Or, we can move to the next step i.e. scaling the one that performed the best.
As a startup, you need to do both. Optimize and scale, both at the same time. The more sweet spots you find, the better.
Scaling requires that you have accurate data available so that you don’t burn your budget. This is only possible if you have optimized your campaigns properly.
Start small with a budget of around $5 per day and test the campaign for a week or so to check if it is working fine. Once you have the results, change the budget to $50 per day or even more, as you deem fit.
You can also try remarketing to people who have recently visited your website, or to those who have provided a list of phone numbers or email addresses. Just ensure that the data you use is GDPR compliant.
Once you have found a winning strategy, it is time to repeat the same process with more campaigns. You can either launch similar campaigns on the same platform or move to another platform and test the same campaign. The possibilities are virtually endless.
You must approach paid marketing for startups just like you do a regular online advertising campaign for a digital company. The only difference is that you will be starting from scratch so there will be a steep learning curve. Don’t give up. With time and by experimentation you will learn the secrets of the trade to increase sales quickly and easily.
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Arsalan, a Digital Marketer by profession, works as a Startups and Digital Agencies Community Manager at Cloudways. He loves all things entrepreneurial and wakes up every day with the desire to enable the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs through his work!