online marketing, Startup Advice

Four startups share their best digital marketing advice

Angela Castles /

mealpal

Mealpal founders Katie Ghelli and Mary Biggins. Source: Supplied.

Digital marketing is a crucial way to gain customer conversions, but with a small budget and lack of dedicated resources, it can be hard for startups to get the same marketing reach as big businesses and corporates.

So what can you do to get bang for your buck?

StartupSmart spoke to four startups that have run successful marketing campaigns with all kinds of budgets and resources. Here’s what worked for them, and what advice they would give to others.

Airtasker 

For Airtasker co-founder Tim Fung, having a hands-on approach to digital marketing campaigns for the Sydney-based tech startup is crucial to ensuring timely, engaging content. Making use of partnerships with other businesses has also been beneficial for the startup.

“You’ve got to resource it really well — digital marketing is definitely not set and forget. It’s quite hands on,” Fung tells StartupSmart.

Fung says if startups have dedicated funding for digital marketing campaigns, this funding should be invested in continually “updating and producing content to keep your campaigns fresh”.

“There can be misconception that when you optimise a digital campaign you set up and forget — that’s not the case,” Fung says.

“Another aspect of digital marketing is finding context; at Airtasker we really focus on finding channels in which the context is right.”

“If you don’t need house cleaning and we are trying to sell that to you on a broadcast medium, that’s going to have a really poor conversion rate,” Fung says. Startups should instead be asking “what’s the psychology and context of where they [the customer] are at” when deciding how to run digital marketing campaigns.

Fung also says partnerships with other brands and companies offer crucial sources of organic digital marketing conversions.

“The best thing for us is when we partner with someone: that’s been something that’s working for a lot of brands lately,” he says.

Fung suggests startups should be “aligning themselves with customer bases” that would be interested in their product, identifying strategic partnerships to ensure “mutually positive outcomes for everyone”.

Fung says Airtasker’s partnerships with the likes of Ikea, Good Guys, and Courier One leverage the importance of appealing to its customers’ social contexts and psychology.

“It’s all about asking ‘what does the customer want at that point in time ‘and trying to align those wants with what you sell,” he says.

Fung says these sort of campaigns are useful because they are “genuinely creating value” and “selling something they [customers] really want to be sold,” rather than seeming like a traditional top-down marketing campaign.

Mealpal

Mealpal is a US-based food subscription startup that expanded its reach to Sydney earlier this year, and will tackle more of the Australian market when it launches its offerings in Melbourne this week.

StartupSmart spoke to Mary Biggins, co-founder of MealPal and fitness industry startup ClassPass, about the digital marketing strategies Mealpal has rolled out while launching in the Australian market.

“Thinking about how people are using the product is really helpful: for us [Mealpal] it’s natural people want to get lunch with someone else,” Biggins says.

This led Mealpal to launch its ‘refer a friend’ campaign, which saw its users referring the platform to friends and receiving $50 credit for both themselves and the referee in the process.

Biggins says the “adaption rate has been really high” in response to the promotion, which has seen such high rates of conversions because it “uses the power of endorsement from our existing users”.

“When you’re able to do any form of marketing where you get a referral [from an existing customer] it does much better — its not just a paid ad,” Biggins says, adding that while Mealpal “does very little traditional digital marketing” this referral-based approach has been a key driver of conversions.

“Consumers have learned to block out a lot of the sponsored content and paid ads; [with referrals] the content they are seeing is truly an organic endorsement rather than just a paid impression,” she says.

Since launching in Sydney in June, Biggins says Mealpal has already served 50,000 lunches in the city alone, and in its first 50 days, grew at a faster pace than its previous rollouts in New York, London and San Francisco.

“I attribute a lot of that to the virality [of the referral campaign] and the referrals that we had … We’re going to hit that number even faster in Melbourne,” Biggins says.

Tipple 

For Melbourne-based alcohol-delivery startup Tipple, using content marketing and identifying the sources of online traffic has allowed the startup to leverage its most successful digital assets and drive sales.

“We once found that a particular blog post about making frozen rosé was performing extremely well on Facebook in terms of engagement,” Tipple chief executive Ryan Barrington says.

“At first glance, it seemed like the blog was just a great engagement piece, however, once we took a deeper dive into the data, we found that one blog post generated us more sales than any other campaign we ran that month.”

“This was only identified in the next month’s analysis when we dived into the data and found customers who engaged in that blog. By retargeting them [customers] using the Facebook pixel, which is a cheaper strategy for conversion, and showing them content in relation to the rosé blog post and prompting them with delivery being only 30 minutes, they converted [to the platform] within a 14 day window.

“This particular campaign generated over $20,000 in sales for that single campaign,” Barrington says.

Tipple’s top three digital marketing tips:

1. Test and measure

“Test and measure everything and don’t be afraid to give something a go,” Barrington says.

“Sometimes the best performing campaigns are the ones you thought had no chance of success. If you don’t try, you’ll never learn. But of course, be smart about it. Start with a small test and scale it up once your metrics are met.”

2. Cross-reference data

“Ensure you are using all the data analysis tools provided by these digital platforms, however do not rely on them 100%,” Barrington advises.

“Ensure you have a method to track and measure your results and cross reference your data independently of these platforms.”

3. Don’t get lost in data 

“Be careful that you don’t get lost in the data,” Barrington says.

“Identify and stick to the core metrics that are important to your business and measure the impact your digital marketing efforts are having over time. This helps avoid confirmation bias in large sets of data and keeps you focused on what matters most.”

Easyshare 

Sydney-based rental-management startup easyshare has already processed $10 million in payments while in beta testing, and to drive further growth it recently ran a digital growth-hacking campaign with a difference.

Piggybacking off Uber’s successful promotion that saw free trips offered to people with the name Sam, easyshare upped the stakes and offered $100 off the rent of the first 50 people by the name of Sam that signed on to the platform. The campaign has amassed more than 100 new conversions, according to head of marketing Siobhan Hayes, who shared her three key digital marketing tips with StartupSmart.

1.  Measure everything

Ensure you have the right set up to monitor every link you push out into the digital space. Make sure you have Google Analytics in place and that you’re tagging so you can track and measure your content and engagement,” Hayes says.

2. Leverage social tools

“Make sure you’re up to date with the latest social tools,” Hayes advises.

“For example we recently used a feature on Facebook that allows you to invite people who don’t already like your page to like it when they engage with your posts. We also leveraged the new invitation feature that allows you to add a little note when you share your page with friends to make that interaction more personal.”

3. Make it relevant and real

“The benefit of social media and online platforms is you can have real conversations with your customers,” Hayes says.

“Don’t make it contrived because it turns people away. In my opinion, genuine engagements are much more valuable than non-personal brand content and it’s why people will pay for influencers to talk about their products.

“Every marketer should be aiming to have some form of real dialogue and engagement with their customers.”

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Angela Castles

Angela Castles is a Journalist at StartupSmart with a keen interest in the legal issues startups face. In her free time she can be found eating sushi and seeing live music.

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  • Erika Parker

    Angela, thanks. I love this genre of articles!

    I work in a digital marketing agency Kraftblick. If you`d asked me what advice I would give to younger startups, I would say the following.

    1. Pay special attention to hiring a team to work with. For these purposes, find the best (from your opinion) professionals in the market and provide an opportunity to grow for them I know, it may sound kind of obvious, but in fact, there are three things that motivate employees. First, autonomy — the freedom to do what they like. Second, mastery, which is the ability to grow. And finally, purpose; knowing that what you do is important.

    2. Forget about everything that you`ve heard from famous growth hackers. Common tips for growth hacking do not always work, you need to understand this. From my experience, there are three things that prevent your company from massive growth. 1) You have a weak product. 2) Your company is not mature enough. 3) You have a single growth hacker.

    3. Delegate. Yeah, I know we are all tired of such advice, but I guess this is not you`ve heard of. If you`re CEO, you may have a great desire to do every task alone. This is a way to a failure. There are 5 main jobs that are not CEOish and should be delegated. 1) Streamlined processes. 2) Administrative tasks. 3) Finance, accounting, etc. 4) Marketing. 5) Technical Support.

    4. Marketing KPIs may destroy your business when linked to bonus payments.

    If you`re interested to learn Kraftblick`s expertise on other topics, you can visit our blog.