10 Low-Budget Digital Marketing Tips to Scale Your Startup in Times of Crisis
Chad Kodary
Oct 1st, 2021 at 10:00 AM

10 Low-Budget Digital Marketing Tips to Scale Your Startup in Times of Crisis

Scaling your startup is an essential step for every business. However, it’s also the step that leads to the downfall of countless great business ventures due to poor planning, lack of knowledge, and the absence of a strong digital marketing strategy. Experts report that even in a normal year, eleven out of twelve startups fail.

The past eighteen months compounded this issue, stopping countless brands in their tracks and even causing the premature demise of long-standing staples in the community. It is hard enough for a startup to survive the initial scaling process, but is it possible to do so effectively even in a crisis event?

Below, we’ll dive into ten of the best low-budget digital marketing tips to scale your startup in times of crisis.

1. Adjust the Way You Communicate with Your Audience

In times of crisis, consider how every individual is impacted, not just your bottom line. A greater percentage of your audience is likely to be struggling with employment issues or facing economic hardships. With that in mind, the last thing people want is to be inundated with advertisements that encourage them to spend more money on your startup business. However, going radio silent is not an option, either.

Instead, use this opportunity to adjust the way you approach your audience. Make the effort to speak about current events and remind your audience that you are there for them. This includes going out of your way to share frequent updates about how the crisis is impacting your business and its ability to interact with customers. This can include changes to business hours, changes to services, expected shipping delays, and any other information that can help the individual plan ahead.

Adjust the Way You Communicate

A strong tip for any business owner or marketer, in times of crisis or not, is to invest in the customer. Always remember that they are an individual with their own story and a problem that needs solving. Your brand offers a solution to that problem. Let them know that you will remain as reliable as always, and they will likely become more loyal to you than ever.

You can reflect these changes in communication by doubling down on your email marketing campaign efforts. You can use these to highly target specific users at various stages of the buyer’s journey. Remember to adjust the way you communicate to different types of consumers to reflect the context of world events whenever possible or relevant. Remind your audience that while you may be a business, there are still people behind that business that cares.

2. SEO Remains As Vital As Always

No matter what is happening throughout the world, SEO (search engine optimization) is always going to be a primary strategy for bolstering your startup online.

Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your brand’s website to ensure that you receive the maximum amount of traffic possible. Search engines determine your SEO value through several factors including the quality of content on the site, loading speeds, image and video sizes, and overall user engagement.

SEO is also extremely cost-effective, making it an essential marketing strategy regardless of your current financial situation. However, in the context of a crisis, other businesses and startups may scale back key marketing efforts like their SEO. This is a mistake.

Working to the top of the ranks through strong SEO is an ongoing battle against competitors. Brands that make it to the top of search results only stay there through relentless strategic effort. Dialing back those efforts can cause anyone to fall down the ranks in a matter of days. With this in mind, sticking to your SEO efforts in the time of a crisis may yet yield the best results for your brand.

Search engine optimization

While other companies begin to slide due to poor budget management or poor strategy decisions, you can capitalize on their mistakes and help your startup begin to scale.

3. Double Down on Content Marketing

If you spend any time at all researching marketing strategies for your startup, you will undoubtedly see the phrase “Content is king.” The value of a strong content marketing strategy cannot be overstated.

You can think of content marketing as the “soft sell” whereas a paid advertising campaign would be a “hard sell.” Content marketing is there to provide your audience with valuable content that keeps them engaged. This content can and should be educational, entertaining, and provide value to their everyday life. Content marketing can include articles, blog posts, video clips, podcasts, and much more.

Content can provide you with an advantage as you can naturally tailor your content to reflect real-world events and experiences. If you look at the COVID-19 epidemic as an example, you will notice that every proactive business made the effort to create content that was relevant to our rapidly changing environment. However, rather than just including the crisis for the sake of using the keyword, you should look for an opportunity to make your startup’s services or products relevant to the problems people may be facing during the crisis.

A strong content calendar also feeds directly into tip number two and will continue to bolster your SEO efforts. As you continue to provide “free” content of value to your audience, your audience will continue to support your brand and help drive you to the top of search rankings.

4. Stay Strong on Social Media, Too

While portions of your audience may be dealing with a major crisis in their way, their online activity is certainly not impacted. Being stuck at home is significantly driving up the number of hours we spend visiting websites from laptops and desktop computers. For social media, experts suggest that we are spending as much as two additional hours per day on social media.

Social media is now a vital part of any solid digital marketing strategy. Facebook already stands as one of the most widely used paid advertising platforms online, while other platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube continue to grow. It is inherently a conversational platform and provides a great opportunity for your brand to provide instantaneous communication and build real relationships.

Stay Strong on Social Media

As technology improves, consumers are becoming savvier regarding marketing strategies every day. Rather than desperately advertising your startup to survive, make the concerted effort to prove your brand to be unique, trustworthy, and loyal. In a crisis when times are tough for everyone, consumers are eagerly looking for those who have their best interests in mind. The sales will come naturally to your startup if you provide something real to your consumers first.

5. Take Advantage of PPC Platforms

This tip may sound counterintuitive for a startup during a crisis where the budget is tight, but consider that marketing budgets are tight for everyone.

PPC campaigns generally work through a bidding system. You and your direct competitors place bids on specific keywords, and the highest bidder wins that advertising spot at the top of keywords. During times where other businesses may scale back their budget, there may be an opportunity for you to capitalize and secure premium advertising for a lower cost than you normally would.

Additionally, platforms like Google and Facebook feature built-in smart technology that automatically tracks and gathers all the valuable data you need for your campaigns. You can set your budget for the month to ensure that you never overspend. As you gather data, you can further tailor your campaigns to hyper-target customers that are ready to engage, while also looking for potential new audiences with the actionable data you gather.

This tip may not be the solution for every startup, but it is worthwhile to research and determine if the potential ROI is worthwhile. Attempting to make others’ disadvantages your key to scaling your startup today.

6. Begin Looking for New Audiences

If you’re considering scaling your startup, then you should already feel completely secure in your products and services and the audience consuming them. If you experience any hesitation regarding this fact, then you are running the risk of scaling your business prematurely. However, for those that are ready, it may be time to start branching out and expanding your business’s reach.

Continuing from the previous point regarding paid ads, your past campaigns should feature a treasure trove of valuable information and statistics regarding your current consumer base. You can take advantage of that data and use your ad accounts to apply that data to new users. These are called lookalike audiences and these new users will feature characteristics that they have in common with those who already buy your products.

Combining these tools with the fact that more consumers are spending more time online during a time of crisis, you have a great opportunity to connect with more prospects. Additionally, when you’re confident in the heart and soul of your brand, you can begin to explore how your startup can help individuals outside of your usual scope. A key part of this is learning to adapt to new digital channels that new potential customers spend their time on.

Begin Looking for New Audiences

Remember the basics – stay authentic to your brand, spend more time listening to your audience and learning about their needs, and let them tell you how your brand might be able to improve their lives.

7. Reassess Your Marketing Metrics

While many of our tips encourage you to be bold during a time of crisis, you still need to remain sensible and constantly analyze all of the metrics that you receive from your marketing efforts. If a campaign is not working out, look at the data, analyze what works and what doesn’t, and scrub out anything that’s not getting you the profitable results you need.

You’re not left to guesswork, either. Social media and paid ad platforms offer A/B testing tools, which allow you to push different versions of a single ad to your audience. Your campaign will gather data in real-time and allow you to determine what aspects of your marketing and which do not.

Your audience itself is the best form of feedback possible. With the conversational nature of social platforms, you should remain engaged and allow your audience to tell you what works and what doesn’t. Digital marketing is a constant, never-ending analytical process and a rapidly changing landscape. If you find yourself standing still, you’ve already missed the boat for the next opportunity.

8. Adjust Your Offerings if Applicable

While countless businesses failed during the recent crisis, others were able to adapt and thrive despite the circumstances. Adaptability is one of the most powerful characteristics a startup needs to survive. However, this trait will not just help you during this initial scaling process but will benefit you throughout the lifespan of your business.

A strong example of this comes with the foodservice industry. Countless restaurants and dining facilities were able to mobilize and enact a plan to offer safe and effective take-out solutions for the community. They analyzed the situation, saw that many consumers were restricted to their homes and missing the outside world, and provided a simple solution that benefitted both parties.

In an office or school setting, teams were able to rapidly adjust with the help of technology. Employers and employees were able to function just as effectively through online communication. They could then extend their services to customers who were interested in continuing service with the company through the web.

Even if you did not originally envision your startup functioning a certain way, take a deep look at the crisis and see if your brand can offer new solutions for customers despite the circumstances. If you are unable to adapt to challenging circumstances, there will always be a competitor that is happy to step up and help your customers out instead.

9. Educate Yourself and Secure Emergency Funding

In times of crisis, your government may have a variety of solutions available to help your startup survive. It is in the best interest of the community for businesses to survive and for economic activity to continue. Therefore, as a business owner, you must educate yourself regarding solutions that may be available to you including emergency funding, tax breaks, or emergency suspensions of fees you may otherwise be responsible for.

For example, the Small Business Administration features a variety of programs that can assist with payroll, debt relief, emergency funding and grants, and much more. Accepting help where you need it is not accepting failure, but being a smart business owner that protects the best interests of yourself and your employees.

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10. Be Dependable to Those Who Need You

While other businesses make the mistake of reacting poorly to a crisis, it’s that lack of stability and reliability that contributes greatly to failure. Remember that even the most loyal audience does not give you their business out of charity, but out of an expected level of quality and dependence on the product or service you provide.

With that in mind, it’s essential to maintain a level head, analyze the crisis, and find ways to adapt your strategies to your new circumstances. Your audience, and also your team, is already experiencing rapid change and anxiety as a result of these new experiences. That provides your brand with the opportunity to solidify itself as a dependable rock for the community.

Continue to provide valuable content and regular updates to those who interact with you online. Stay involved in the conversation on social media and be sure to remain totally aware of how your audience receives your communications. Finally, offer meaningful solutions to new problems your audience may be facing whenever possible as a result of this new crisis. Being reliable and valuable no matter what will single-handedly give you a huge advantage over competitors who cannot adapt.

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