Which lead generation technique do you think is no longer useful to cash-strapped startups, and why?
The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
There are dozens of ways to get inbound leads — optimizing for search, gaining affiliate sales and creating referral codes are some of the most popular. When you are running a cash-strapped startup, you need to build for sustainable growth. Avoid pay-per-click traffic generation, as you often only get “one shot.” Instead, spend your effort on lead generation models that will persist.
2. Non-Targeted Advertising
Taking out an ad in a mainstream publication does not necessarily mean it’s directed toward your target market. Instead, you should invest funds in marketing initiatives directed strictly to your target market, such as social media sites.
3. Promotional Items
I think promotional items have their time and place, but, overall, I’d rather not spend X dollars on a pen or a T-shirt — especially if I can spend nothing, get referrals from synergistic partners and then convert those into business.
4. Offline Advertising
There’s an old joke in the advertising industry that goes something like this: “Half my advertising budget is wasted; I just don’t know which half.” This may be acceptable to big companies with big budgets, but startups can’t take this risk. Only spend money on advertising mediums where effectiveness can be precisely measured. This means most of your marketing budget should be spent online.
5. Display Advertising
Cash-strapped startups cannot afford to pay for ads on a CPM basis without any guarantee that the ads will convert. If you insist on running display ads, look into a remarketing campaign.
6. Brand Advertising
When competition was both local and limited, entrepreneurs could get away with typical brand advertising. For example, they displayed a mere mention of the company name, a clever slogan, a phone number and a request for a quote — they were then lucky enough to get a few inquiries. With increased marketing “noise” today, you’ve got to capture attention with a strong call to action and benefit.
7. Clicks and Impressions
With the number of issues that currently plague CPC and CPM advertising, it’s very difficult and risky for a cash-strapped startup to generate and maximize ROI potential through these outlets. Instead, startups should look toward performance-based advertising solutions, such as affiliate marketing. The results are measurable, and you only pay for qualified leads that you deem acceptable.
8. Mobile Marketing
Personally, I think that mobile advertising is a little weak at the moment. There’s no denying that mobile marketing/advertising has potential — I just don’t think the market is ready to be advertised to on their phones just yet. When it comes to the time invested in certain spots, I’m not an early adopter. I’ll do mobile, but I’m going to wait until the market is good and ready.
9. Sign-Up Bounties
Paying a bounty for user registrations or sign-ups is a tactic that goes in and out of popularity as the funding market ebbs and flows. Directly paying for non-revenue-generating activity leads too often to people gaming the system, as well as a loss of market efficiency.
10. Direct Mail
The last thing I would spend my advertising money on is direct mail. I would have to generate a large amount of sales from my mailings to even make it worth my effort. There is so much junk mail getting circulated through the postal service; people are sick of seeing it. They grab their mail and fish through it to find the bills and the occasional personal letter; the rest ends up in the trash.
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