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For some perspective, I am involved with a startup that is broadcasting a technology platform - one web-based application (SaaS) and a mobile application for iOS built on top of that architecture using REST apis etc.

We are a group of young people in the "event" industry - trying to help people find out what's going on in their communities, with a personal flavor of recommendations and really neat algorithms.

I won't bother to place links here, but I'm really curious.

Should we be focused on using marketing firms? We've traveled to Denver, met with some bigger players, but most are asking for $5k-$20k for any sorts of good campaigns (from written media like newspapers to technology media coverage persons, etc.).

We really believe that our product is good, and we've gotten a good response since launching it about a week ago. We have a budget of $3k-$5k right now for marketing, but really are not sure as to where we should put it. It almost seems like promoting Facebook posts for $30 a day is getting incredible visibility, but is it worth it to pay to get into major coverage networks, such as techcrunch, nyt, forbes, huffington post (etc. etc.)?

The list goes on - just curious if anybody has some data about usage. Thanks.

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Just a note on Facebook, I don't know how true or valid it actually is, but this fairly popular video on YouTube has given me, at least, a bit of hesitation about sponsoring content on there. It sounds like that might not be an issue for you since you say you're getting great visibility, but yeah. Just food for thought. – Matthew Haugen Sep 2 '14 at 6:56
@MatthewHaugen That's a good resource, but we're getting lots of interaction and metrics that the guy in the video wasn't getting. Thanks much for this. – jdero Sep 2 '14 at 19:07
@MatthewHaugen At the very least, I think the statements in that video are plausible. I've spent enough time in the marketing world to actually interact with some of the people building and operating the bots that Facebook likes and Twitter followers and whatever other fake social media stuff. What he described is definitely taking place - though I suspect more of it is bots than he realizes. But I wonder if certain niches might be less overrun with bots? Not sure. Also not sure if promoting posts gets different results from promoting the page itself? – JR Warren Sep 23 '14 at 7:38
up vote 6 down vote accepted

At this stage of the business you're looking for Early Adopters. Few agencies specialise in those, and when they do, they're usually insanely expensive, IME. You're usually better off identifying these people yourselves, using in-house staff - people who will become your in-house media communicators. The role that these people will often fulfil is sometimes called a Growth Hacker, sometimes a Tech or Digital Marketer and sometimes a Social Media Marketer.

IME, the best bang for buck for exposure comes from the network you already know. If you're deep into a topic area, you know people. You know the people that know people, and you follow people that are influential. Get on their radars and ask them to help spread the word. Then find more people like the new joiners. It should, done right, cost less than any advertising that makes the same impact. This changes at scale, when advertising becomes useful.

Email is often barely discussed, but for many startups that I've worked on, it has been far and away the highest impact and lowest cost mechanism to reach interested users, engage them, and get their networks to engage. That's not using email spamming, but using the network of interested people already connected to to you - and growing that.

I have worked as a Growth Hacker and trained them, and I have also spent budgets of up to US$0.5M/month on AdWords. I have some evidence behind this... Personally, I don't spend on standard advertising systems (Facebook, Twitter, AdWords, LinkedIn, etc) unless I can justify to myself that emailing the network is not going to deliver lower cost results. IME, that scales to somewhere around 10k's of users, depending on the type of product (might be much smaller in B2B or niche B2C products).

But the general technique should be to understand who your audience now is, how they communicate their enthusiasm to others, and helping them to communicate by giving them the material that stimulates them to do so. That may be email announcing changes to the product, new things, special offers - depends on what it is you're doing, and what they care about. Engage with your network - that's usually, IME, the key to early explosive and low cost growth. Don't be afraid to change the mechanics later.

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At the beginning it is often worth to focus on "early adopters" of a new service. These people make the reputation and allow to start growing. And usually, they just want to try, without other reward than satisfaction and future outlook.

As this is the "event" industry, the marketing budget could then go to sponsoring key events, where hard-core users have good chances to show up.

And when hard-core users are hooked up, they will likely be commenting on Facebook, Twitter, hash-tagging things around, etc.

I do not claim this is best "per dollar".

On a personal note, I have tried Facebook and Google Ads for advertising an (expensive) specialty coffee. The return is hard to evaluate, but we acquired a couple customers, plus a boost in visibility on Facebook. I am not sure about the worth of the visibility for my coffee, but it looks attractive for the "event" industry.

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You can try advertising on reddit. They have a rather specific subredits for startup communities, such as /r/startups or /r/entrepreneur.

Check the pricing here:

I think they're rather cheap, around $0.75 per 1000 impressions. Someone correct me if i'm wrong.

Also, there's Twitter, Facebook etc, as mentioned above.

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I updated my reply with a relevant link. Seems it's possible :) – Nicholas Sep 4 '14 at 12:43

Have you asked yourself these questions:

  • Who are your most typical user?
  • Where do they live?
  • Age?
  • How do they communicate?

If you want to spend money on advert, you should be able to answer these questions. I would suggest getting in contact with, you're most hardcore users and ask them, what they think. Even if you think, you know there answer, often you would be surprised.

Theres always a huge difference between what we think we know and real fact.

If you want to use social media, which is great, since you can target very specific, I would recommend using Klout or Map-D. These are great tools to monitor the effect of your campaign.

If it is event based, maybe some concert people, culture event or other event based interest would be glad to share your message in their network of users.

People love a good story, find out how you can tell a great story about you're company and contact the medias, maybe they will tell you're story for free?

Hope you find some of my answers helpful.

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Could you be more specific about your market? Where you get the most value for your money, depends on your market. Where is the most change, that they will see and respond to your advert? – Tommy Otzen Sep 2 '14 at 6:48

With the limited budgets, you are better off without marketing agencies. Also, if i got it right, your solution is in the B2B space and not directly to the end consumer - If this is true, simply ignore facebook ads as it will not do any good. I would still go with google - try 2 kinds of targeting - search engine targeting to get potential clicks and audience to your site and on the other hand, I would choose Display network (GDN) to place my ads in select publications. Include industry journals / publications as well. I would do this only to seed the message and some kind of a branding activity.

You could also try Linkedin to identify your potential users and maybe invite them for a test drive...give them temp access to the product and see what kind of feedback can be received. If people are willing to give time for a meeting, try and meet them at a coffee shop. Like JezC mentions, your team members are the best marketing communicators. Spread out and go for it.

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Go with a different approach.

Go with package deals to the customers. Per Dollar can be expensive if u dont handle the target media correctly. and if the customer you are working for may not have a target audience in facebook or some social media then its waste.

so include the FB marketing options and what not in your offer deal. if they want it they can pay for it...:)

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My friend has a blog like this. It is supposed to be a free platform and all, but 5 years down the line...those who need marketing approach him...this is sort of a marketing startup i in the extreme start u keep in min expenses and then build up to package model and all... – Vineet Verma Sep 3 '14 at 7:04

My suggestion would be to target a niche watering hole that's relevant to your market that supports flags for retargeting.

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