A young entrepreneur emailed me about her “first foray into ecommerce” asking for my perspective on their website and opportunities, and asking for suggestions on how they could grow awareness without spending big media bucks. My first reaction on visiting their site was, this is a very cool business model! It is what I would call a “matchmaking service” that pairs people with something to offer with others that need what they offer. No, it’s not like eBay or craigslist. I’ll resist describing what the service is so the reader’s company can get some traction in their field.
The concept intrigued me, because it is important for matchmakers to create databases of both types of parties to the match for the whole thing to work. This presents a different sort of marketing challenge — finding sellers before you reach out to buyers. Otherwise, buyers may be discouraged if they visit the site and can’t find any options in their area. OK, so now you now it is location dependent, but I will say it is a service that could be available anywhere.
I recommend a two-part communications approach, with timing biased slightly in favor of finding “sellers” first. It’s a one-two punch, because immediately following a campaign to recruit sellers, i.e., to “find product”, they must follow up and find takers. Since they’re a startup and resources are limited, they need to focus on one geography, perhaps a city, at a time. craigslist did this successfully, starting in one city and expanding to others. My reader’s company needs a two-pronged marketing effort one market at a time. So they will need to evaluate and rank various markets and decide the order in which to approach them.
But their question was really about inexpensive ways to gain awareness. They need to do several things:
- First, to create initial awareness, they should use PR in the first target city, getting the local media to help tell their story. I recommend the book, Guerilla Publicity, by Levinson, Frishman and Lubin, which is loaded with suggestions on how to get publicity. With their unique business model, the business- and perhaps even the community-press should be eager to run stories about them. One article or broadcast isn’t enough. They will need to seek multiple exposures.
- Next, they need to use pay-per-click advertising on major search engines to draw in both “buyer” and “seller” prospects who have seen the publicity to their website.
Once they establish momentum in the first target location, they can move on to the next. Although guerilla publicity costs very little, it does take time and diligence. Pay-per-click advertising is what it sounds like. The more people view the ad, they more you pay for the ad, so you pay only for what you get. These are both low cost ways to reach specific markets.
Aynsley, are you listening?