The proven 10-step startup marketing playbook
At Dualboot Partners, our marketing strategy is built around a single statement, one made famous by billionaire entrepreneur Jim Rohn: “Your network is your net worth.” Building that network isn’t just about attending lots of events (although our dance card most weeks is pretty full) or cultivating a sizable social media following (also core to our approach). It’s a multifaceted effort that’s centered around one basic concept: You have to add value to your network for that network to work for you. When we focus on how we can be of service to others, we build trust, loyalty and connections that generate substantial returns on the investment we make into building them. How do you do that? For our company, we’ve steadily built our network through a 10-step approach that is equal parts accessible and impactful. It requires time, consistency and commitment, but for us, it has helped us to grow exponentially across the country since 2018 while building a reputation for service and industry expertise.
Step #1: Build your LinkedIn presence
LinkedIn is a powerful business development tool, but you need an audience to make an impact. The first step? Add your employees as administrators to your company LinkedIn page, and encourage them to invite their connections to follow you. Each company can invite up to 100 people per month. Do that consistently over time, and your digital network will grow. Ours grew from 200 to 1,770 in a year. As we continued expanding our team and sharing relevant, quality content, that following more than doubled, to nearly 4,000 highly engaged followers now.
Step #2: Create content
Content is anything you produce as a company — blog posts, case studies, infographics, emails, videos. Businesses typically focus on creating content that sells their products or services, but we’ve found the most impact in producing content that answers important questions, introduces new ideas and establishes our company as a subject-matter expert. Good content communicates your value while adding value to your network, which turns you into a source your connections can trust. You don’t have to tackle this all on your own. Hire writers to help (we do), and remember to share content from other organizations, too. This is a big part of building your network, as well. In time, those organizations might repay the favor.
Step #3: Create lists of prospects, customers and media contacts
Early on in the life of your company, implement a customer relationship management (or CRM) system — which come in all levels of complexity and investment — to begin tracking your prospects, your current customers and your former customers. Load all your known contacts into the system, and then consider purchasing industry lists to grow your reach. Also, start researching national media outlets for relevant PR opportunities and contacts. If you want to lean heavily into PR, consider hiring a specialized PR firm to spread your message and introduce your brand to publications across the country.
Step #4: Distribute your content
You can’t count on people to find your content on their own. You need to strategize a way to present that content to your audience in a variety of ways. We recommend using a marketing automation platform such as Mailchimp to send content to targeted lists. Post your content on your corporate and personal social media platforms. Share photos of real people, and tag everyone in them to promote additional engagement and sharing. We analyzed two of our recent LinkedIn posts to show the impact a tag can have: The post with tags earned 5,070 impressions, 75 reactions and a nearly 16% click-through rate. The post without tags earned 1,154 impressions, 17 reactions and a 3% click-through rate. The conclusion: Tagging works.
Step #5: Identify local or industry awards, and apply
Every market has a publication or organization that honors local businesses for a variety of reasons: 40 under 40, top CEOs, fastest-growing companies, best places to work. Do your homework to identify the awards you have the best chance at winning, and apply. This is about more than a plaque on your wall. Winning these awards creates PR, marketing and content opportunities for your business. It also provides external validation and introduces your brand to local journalists and influencers, even if you don’t win.
Step #6: Identify speaking/panelist opportunities
The benefit of this step is twofold. First, exposure: When you speak at events and on panels, you increase brand awareness while becoming recognized as a subject-matter expert. The event becomes a business development opportunity, and there’s the potential to create new pieces of content as a result (ie. social posts to promote your appearance or blog posts synthesizing the key takeaways). The second benefit is another opportunity to add value to your network. When you share your insights, you give those around you the chance to learn new concepts, ideas or perspectives. You are sharing knowledge, and the ripple effects can extend far beyond the event itself. So ask around about upcoming events, and let your network know you’re interested in taking part.
Step #7: Seize low-hanging sponsorship opportunities
Event organizers are always looking for companies to sponsor their next golf tournament, conference or panel discussion. Some of these opportunities can be expensive, but not all. And the return on investment can be significant. Sponsoring an event often gives you access to lists of attendees to begin prospecting. You get opportunities to talk about who you are and what you do in front a new audience. And you keep your company relevant and top of mind while supporting your industry or community. So start searching for local events to support, and sign yourself up.
Step #8: Create a “pitch” video, and share it
Few mediums are more powerful than video. Use this format to document your elevator pitch, and share it with your network via email, social media or on your website. It gives your connections something easy to share when referring you to others, and it helps hammer home who you are as a company. The key: Prepare, rehearse and keep it short. Also, don’t hesitate to hire professionals to ensure your video is something you’re proud to share. This is an investment piece of content, one you’ll share for years to come. You want it to be good.
Step #9: Coordinate events and join industry nonprofit board
When you coordinate events, you give others the chance to learn, give back and build connections. When you join an industry or nonprofit board, you are serving your community. These efforts can be tremendously valuable for your company, as well. Events are a great opportunity to collect pictures for social media (tag everyone!) and article ideas for your website. They also allow you to cultivate leads and ensure customer loyalty. A few years ago, we organized a volunteer event at the Charlotte Rescue Mission, carefully curating a list of attendees. We served lunch to the residents and then gave everyone a chance to meet and connect. Several came away with plans to volunteer again. One identified a new senior-level hire for his startup. Another made a connection that led to a future business opportunity. Wins across the board.
Step #10: Be a servant leader
We pride ourselves on making connections. We do this whether or not it stands to benefit us. It’s just who we are. If we see an opportunity to encourage new relationships, we make it happen. If there’s a way for us to serve our customers and our community, we do it. And it leaves a lasting impression. Many of our biggest clients have come to us after we referred them to someone or something we thought could help. In the process, we earned their trust and, eventually, their business. I can’t emphasize enough this is not our goal in serving others. It just happens. So I encourage you to give it a try. The worst thing that can happen is you give to those around you, which is actually pretty great.