Armed with a great idea, many individuals have ventured out to join the world of startups. The city I live in (Lincoln, Nebraska) happens to have a fantastic startup scene with a number of successful companies such as Hudl, Travefy, Bulu Box, Hurrdat, Music Spoke, and more, putting our city on the map when it comes to startup strategy, market growth, and talent acquisition.

Startups have to be scrappy. That’s a good thing.

One of the things I like about talking to startups about marketing is that they don’t have big budgets or large amounts of staff to carry about these huge marketing goals. They’re smart, scrappy, and fiercely committed to making a product people actually want so it serves as an answer to a problem, rather than another shiny item to appear on the shelf. If you are thinking of starting a company, simply check out Shane Reiser’s list of “Things I would pay for if they existed” and there are a number of challenges he writes about that could become products/services and companies. Seriously, it’s awesome.

This last week, I had the opportunity to serve as a panel moderator for the Lincoln chapter of the American Marketing Association’s monthly program. The program was titled, “Marketing like a startup,” and featured three panelists from Bulu Box, Music Spoke, and Hurrdat.

Watch these 3 marketing tips from Startup Founders:

Here are some other tips they offered during the program:

Insist on customer feedback to market for you. Instead of thinking about new ways to reach your audience, start talking to your audience and gathering their feedback. Customer feedback is the way you can develop solutions that customers are looking for, so they go seeking out your product or service!

Solve problems!

Leverage brand ambassadors. There are many ways to do this, but since word of mouth marketing is hotter than ever, and will not be going away (ever), you can partner with bloggers, influencers, and other individuals to have them promote your product. But be careful, this could go badly for you if you approach the bloggers simply with a news pitch. You have to share with them what’s in it for them, how their vision and beliefs for their own audience will match up with the purpose and vision of your product, and what the long-term strategy of the relationship would be. Hint: Jayson DeMers wrote about this approach in an article in the Huffington Post, titled “How to Get Mommy Bloggers to Bring Customers To Your Brand.” Definitely worth a read.

Be willing to invest in talent. The right talent can make or break your business. Since branding involves everything from your logo to the way you answer the phone, a negative  or lackluster employee can sabotage progress in many areas. Seek out the right talent and ensure they are on board with the vision and purpose of the company.

Fail in small increments. Failure is often embraced in startup culture, but it is not widely encouraged in a corporate setting. One of our panelists referenced a boss who had given him the permission to fail to the tune of $250,000. Most of our audience agreed, they don’t get that kind of license. So, what was encouraged was to fail in small increments. Find something you can test on a small scale to discover some habits and behaviors of your target audience. And as one startup founder said, it’s only failure if you don’t learn from it. Otherwise, it’s learning.

Become a learner

Don’t get hung up on the tools. There are SO many marketing tools available that are free or close to free – there should be no excuses related to not being able to afford expensive marketing platforms. Check out this list from Inc Magazine.

Capture email addresses. Email is still the one medium that rules all other mediums in the sense that it’s not going away. There are so many email programs available that are free, such as mailchimp, that make it SO simple to create an email campaign. They don’t assume you’re a developer, designer, or artist. Create a content outline and plan, then create an email, and fill it with GREAT content.

Good content

There were many more insights, so I’m hoping I have the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with each of these folks to share more advice.

Lincoln AMA Startup Marketing Panel

Thank you to the Lincoln AMA for a great program!