In part one of this series, we discussed marketing strategies that improve the flow of qualified candidates to business incubators. Today, we will discuss the most effective marketing tools to use when communicating with your target audience.
As we mentioned previously, business incubators often struggle with limited resources . At the same time if you don’t have a flow of qualified businesses participating in your program the long term sustainability of your programs is also limited. So, you will have to market yourself effectively. Leveraging time and resources to reach the best candidate with the resources you do have. Below are the top three tools that business incubators can use, even with limited resources, to market effectively. Plus, we have added some guidelines and examples on how to use these tools correctly.
- Be a leader in your local ecosystem. This is a fancy way of saying networking but if I wrote networking as a header you would probably stop reading. There is a difference between being seen as a LEADER and attending lots of luncheons and happy hours. Being good at building relationships and connecting with entrepreneurs will get you more referrals, being seen as a leader will get you more quality program clients. Leaders in a local entrepreneurial ecosystem speak at events, serve on board, and bring together innovative initiatives that support the ecosystem, especially initiatives that are NOT their own programing. This means fewer events and fewer groups and more quality interactions. Show up at events that support individual entrepreneurs instead of the large formal networking summits. In a busy schedule it is easy to let the “little events” slide and feel obligated to attend the big ones. Entrepreneurs can sense when you’re not one of them. You have to show that you truly support business owners, not just your program.
- Celebrate your client’s victories and articulate how you helped them achieve that goal. Let’s face it, the entrepreneurs in your program are the closest things to a “product” you have. With all of the confusing jargon in business incubators (accelerator versus incubators versus co-working with a dash of workshops) showing the success of your current participants gives real concrete examples of what you do. Celebrate the small wins and the big wins as well. Sharing stories on a blog, spreading them through social media and amplifying your impact with press releases are the marketing tools that leverage word of mouth marketing. Most entrepreneurs want to sing your praises but it sounds awkward to go on social media and randomly proclaim how great your business incubator program is. However, when the incubator posts an article about you it is incredibly easy to hit “Share”. Celebrating your client’s wins also improves your internal culture and provides your clients with the additional benefit of free marketing.
Articulating HOW you fit into the victory. This might be more challenging for some because many in our field are incredibly sensitive to taking credit for our client’s work. What you should do is frame a client’s success to highlight the HOW it happened and your success story becomes a learning opportunity and a value statement for your program. Here is an example:
“Congrats to our own Evo-Science for closing their first round of funding! They worked hard on their pitch at our bootcamp, refined their UVP with our mentors and went out and made us all very proud!”
- Get on the radio, radio advertisements or interviews on local NPR shows. I promise I am not paid to say this, but consider investing in radio advertisements with your local NPR or news agency. They reach a direct audience that extends beyond the current reach of people already in your ecosystem. Specific invites to unique events stand out and do well. Make sure to double check the show’s reach and demographics. There are a lot of “business radio shows” that reach very few people. I consider it a general rule to ask 3 people in your target audience if they regularly listen to that specific show I am considering. If they don’t listen to it (or have only heard of it through networking) then it is not worth the investment.
- Create valuable business tools. Not general business tips, real tools to get traction. As I mentioned before, many people struggle with understanding what a business incubator does. Create good business checklist, templates and data that are valuable to the qualified members of your target audience and position you as an expert. Make sure to share those tools through emails, social media and at networking events. The value of business incubators is much greater than just business tools so you are not giving away the milk for free.
Like any tool, it is important that you use marketing tools consistently and correctly. Combining the marketing strategies in part 1 with the marketing tools in part 2 and you will increase the flow of quality businesses to create significant business growth through your business incubator.
For additional questions on how to customize your marketing strategy or improve your communication strategy to fit your program, contact Empowered Lab Communications for a free 30 minute marketing and communications program assessment.