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Big marketing on a startup's budget: Tricks of the trade

When you’re running a startup or a small business, using resources on marketing is often given a lower priority than developing the product or building your team. We got to speak to Niels Vrijhoeven, amateur skate-boarder, professional marketing man and brand editor in chief of BUX, all about marketing. In this interview we focus on how to market your organisation on a budget, and get the most out of your resources.

Being a marketing man you’ve had significant experience promoting bigger brands with a larger budget, now that you’re working in the startup space what are some of the challenges you’ve faced and how have you over-come them?     

The most important challenge for a startup is obviously a limited budget. We need to spend as little money as possible, to keep our runway for BUX as long as possible. So we’ve refrained from developing big mass-media marketing campaigns.

We’ve integrated journalism into our marketing. We invested in a small editorial team that publishes articles on what’s happening in the markets in our app on a daily basis – in a very funny, entertaining and understandable way. The main goal of these articles is to educate people on trading and give them a helping hand interpreting what’s going on at the markets. After all, great if you are able to place a trade, but you need to have some rudimentary ideas about WHAT to do, trade wise, as well.

Subsequently, this bespoke content is shared via social media as well. This generates us presence and reach online, virtually for free, constantly measured and tweaked by ourselves. We support this online presence with spending some money on mobile ads, mainly on Facebook and Twitter, focused at generating app installs.

The rest of the limited budget is spent on PR; getting our story out! This way we can become known and build our brand on a relatively small budget.

How different is marketing between smaller organisations and larger organisations? Could you highlight some strengths and weaknesses inherent to both sizes of organisations?

The difference is obvious: small start-ups feel like speedboats while larger organisations resemble oil tankers.

The strength of small organisations is nimbleness: we can act instantly upon a tweet, an online metric, or respond to any feedback we receive.

The downside is that our communication looks is about three-quarters of what it could be. We simply don’t have the budget to pay top-creatives or graphic designers. Obviously, all this is vice-versa for big organisations.

What is the one piece of advice you’d give startups about marketing their business and how should they go about forming their marketing strategy?

I would recommend reading Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why”, it will help you find the true essence of your company, and find out what your product and eventually your brand is really about.

You need to understand why you exist as a product and a brand, and all marketing communications should be derived from that.

The “why” should be directive in crafting your product proposition, and your messaging. The “Why” should be clear, not only to the marketing department, but to the organisation as a whole.

I guess we will see a lot of “empowerment” tools hitting the market.

In the same way BUX enables users to become a trader without much knowledge, Instagram lets you take pictures like a professional photographer, and just like Nike Plus makes you feel like you have you a top personal trainer with you, tonnes of other ideas can be developed around this theme.

Long gone are the days where complex technology acts a competitive advantage. Everybody can now build a computer with huge memory capacity. We are now entering the age of the interface. Our machines have become so complex, the need for an understandable interface becomes omnipresent: a great user interface is a competitive advantage.