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Change Your Definition Of Advertising

When I work with startups, marketing and advertising are often foreign territory for them. This is pretty understandable; after all, they’re buried knee-deep in getting their startup off the ground, and that usually means focusing on development 110%. When the topic of advertising does come up, some startups ask about some of the services we offer here at Forward Push — namely, traditional print/broadcast advertising as well as pay-per-click advertising.

Now, while I can appreciate their enthusiasm, the truth is that the traditional definition of advertising doesn’t necessarily have to come into play for a startup to be effective at marketing. Entrepreneur contributor Harry Whitehouse (AKA Co-founder and CTO of Endicia) stated that “hefty advertising won’t save you” and that’s true — your staff should be focusing on perfecting the product. There’s still a need to invest in advertising, but not in the ways that you might think — and not through the avenues you’d usually suspect. Time, it turns out, is the ultimate currency for startup advertising, and here are four areas you can invest it in:


You might be wondering how creating content constitutes advertising. Well, the goal of advertising is to expose your brand. Content does that, but rather than being networked on a website or broadcast on TV, that exposure comes from search engine results. The more content a startup creates, the bigger the search engine footprint. The best part? Unlike traditional advertising (which offers limited targeting), being ranked in search results means that you’re already targeting your desired demographic.

Your investment: Time to write and post content.


social-media-for-startupsSocial Media

Marketers often look at social media as ground zero for grassroots campaigns. It’s the ideal situation for startups, since it’s easy to connect with like-minded people and get your brand/message/product out there. Also, because social media platforms cater to different demographics, you can maximize your efforts on the platform of choice for the people most likely to be interested in your startup’s product. And if you do want to dabble in some paid advertising, these platforms often offer highly targeted display ads

Your investment: Time to gain followers, make posts, and regularly engage on at least one platform.


product-demos-for-startupsDemo Competitions

This only really applies to app/software startups, but for those looking to get industry exposure and possible prize money, numerous tech competitions exist around the world. Some are in person, some are online, but all offer the possibility of exposure for the finalists. In addition, if you app is named a finalist, that’s something that can be easily parlayed into a press release or social media posts.

Your investment: Time to research competitions and attend in-person events.


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blogging-for-startupsConnect With Niche Media

There’s a blog for just about anything out there. In fact, there’s probably several hundred blogs for even the most obscure topic, and those blogs often have social media followings. Whatever your startup is, there’s an outlet out there that covers it. Offering behind-the-scenes interviews, early demos, or industry info is an easy way to get your startup some coverage.

Your investment: Time to find contact info for all of these different outlets and build relationships with them.



Each of these cases represent opportunities for startups to engage in non-traditional advertising, often with only the investment of time and effort. Marketing doesn’t always have to be about dollars and cents, and the loudest voice or widest ad doesn’t always win. For startups, I usually advise them to first build a great product through innovation, then build a great following through innovative means.

What are you doing to advertise your startup? Not sure what to do? Download our free Startups’s Guide to Inbound Marketing.

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