For the under-funded, over-stressed, early-stage entrepreneurs among us, there is a constant struggle to find the marketing strategies that will drive traffic, then to create a sales process to drive consistent conversion.
When one Googles “growth hacking,” a million articles come up, 99% of them being outdated or irrelevant. Horror stories about FB ad agencies abound. Many have no idea how to grow an email list. There is never enough time to create content consistently, never mind post it on social media. Our inboxes are flooded daily with a thousand different marketing and analytics tools, funnel building advice, offers for coaching and consulting. One gets overwhelmed just thinking about it.
Do I hire a marketer now? How about a sales director? How much equity do I give up now?
Sales and marketing are sore subjects, especially for those first-time business owners who have no background in either. Most will inevitably give up and fail due to tech overwhelm, a lack of clients and revenue, lack of a working funnel and sales process, plus being no closer to knowing how to outsource and delegate effectively.
What if there were an inexpensive and high-quality way to test a variety of marketing and sales strategies without hiring a director of marketing or sales up front, or even without an expensive outside consultant?
As a growth hacker and startup instructor focused on helping startups get PR/Media and create strategic partnerships, I often come across new tools and platforms that promise to automate many elements of sales and marketing. Too often, however, I find that I need to become an expert in complex software or hire an expert anyway, because the fastest way to results is through a human connection with someone who’s done it before, successfully.
A thousand lead magnet roadmaps, listicles and free software trials don’t make for a viable marketing or sales strategy. And there simply is no room to hire an expert, at least not yet. And so, it is quite rare that I find top-notch growth hacks — especially those where actual live help from a human is involved — that both pay huge dividends and are free or inexpensive.
Here are 4 of the gems I’ve tested – and had my clients test alongside – we’ve used them to quickly ramp up sales and marketing on a shoestring.
Based in Toronto, GenM brings young marketers – often college students or recent grads – together with CEOs in a marketplace to help startups to apprentice a marketing team for a tiny, nominal monthly fee for 10 hours a week per apprentice.
2) The Selling Factory
Created at the University of Florida Hillel, this is a student salesforce-in-training that gets top motivated talent to work selling for you. Before you drop multi-six-figures on hiring a top sales director and sales team, it’s dramatically more price-effective to hone your sales script and tactics by apprenticing students who are pre-qualified by motivation and communication skills.
3) General Assembly students
While many corporations looking for fresh talent come to GA to hire freshly trained digital marketers, product managers, and UX designers, most early-stage entrepreneurs with limited funds have no such luxury. A wise – and free – alternative is to enlist the help of said students for development, UI/UX, and digital marketing work they must do for their class keystone projects.
4) GoViral Sweepstakes software
Using a viral sweepstakes software is generally a great way to build an email list for the price of a free product or program subscription. But this software is often expensive and difficult to manage when integrating with your CRM and social media accounts.
Lastly, if you’re looking for more long-term support, yet have neither the funds to a hire full-time staff or bet a chunk of your equity, there is an innovative business model recently inaugurated, the no-equity accelerator, with some of them focusing on sales and/or marketing.
In short, even if you’re a founder with no room for error in your budget, you can still go far by thinking outside the usual pay-to-play vendor paradigm. After all, just as savvy business people will find ways to build successful companies by giving away free tools (Google, anyone?), there will always be students eager to prove themselves in this world.
Give them a chance, let them apprentice with you in your business, and you may just be handsomely rewarded.
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