This was the question StartupNation asked of 10 business experts. 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.
1. Event Sponsorship
Event sponsorships are typically a waste of money, unless they’re for interactive experiences that engage people. A logo on a flyer is ignored, nobody pays attention to call-outs from the host and people won’t remember that a drink was named after your company. Andy Karuza, brandbuddee
2. Facebook Ads
We ran two different Facebook marketing campaigns, and each time, we came out with poor results. There are much cheaper ways to get customers than Facebook. The concept of social media is good on the surface, but it’s not when it comes to large purchasing decisions. Derek Capo, Next Step China
3. Paid Online Networks
In home care, we jumped very early on into "paid" community websites -- where people go and find your service online. We thought these directories would provide great links and referral networks, but, instead, we found them to be a huge waste of time and money. Alex Chamberlain, EZFingerPrints, LLC & EasyLiving, Inc.
4. An Outside PR Company
We will be eliminating the outside PR company we’ve had on retainer for the past four months. The return simply hasn’t been worth the investment. It’s hard for a PR company to capture the spirit and passion of a startup. My partner and I have had better luck reaching out to reporters OURSELVES to share our story, so we’re going to nix the expense and make time for media outreach. Brittany Hodak, ’ZinePak
5. Online Ads
I’m cutting out online paid advertising and relying on social networks and content marketing to drive SEO and visitor traffic. Why? If you can educate yourself on how to track keyword positions, SERPs, PPC and myriad other factors that influence SEO, then you can allocate money toward other marketing efforts, like high-quality content marketing. Jay Wu, Best Drug Rehabilitation
6. Print Advertising
Unless you’re running large, national companies, advertising in national print publications and newspapers is outdated. There are simply far too many more cost-effective ways to reach your target market. Print advertising isn’t targeted -- it’s based on reaching the masses. Social media marketing presents a much better opportunity for a higher return on investment. Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
7. Lead Generators
We paid for lead generators for one of our startups. These leads cost us about $55 each, but it sometimes took five leads to close a sale. While we were doing lead generators, we started to build up our online presence with SEO and then used lead generators to get a foothold in the market. Joseph Ricard, Tunebash Inc.
8. A Marketing Team
As controversial as that sounds, for startups operating on a lead model, the focus should be lead generation and closing sales to drive revenue for the business. We had hired several people as a marketing department and soon realized we had built a team of thinkers who shied away from taking action. Our sales team leads our marketing initiatives now, focusing on lead-generating campaigns. Shradha Agarwal, ContextMedia
We’ve been cutting back on SEO for the past few years and, instead, directing the budget toward content marketing. Because of the continuing changes in how search engines evaluate websites, having great content is proving to be a much better bet for us than sinking any money into SEO. Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting
10. Email Offers
We recently stopped emailing our offers to a third-party email list provider. Even though the volume of emails was great, resulting in record sales, we decided to stop the traffic flow once it started leading to problems with our domains getting more spam complaints. We didn’t want to risk our reputation or our long-term domain health. Joe Barton, Barton Publishing