Can you tell me about your business?
Curate is a website that my brother Sam and I are building. We're in private beta at the moment, building the site we want to launch with. It connects shoppers and retailers in one place, where you can discover new things that you might like to buy based on what your friends are shopping for, and you can use it as a tool to save products that you find while shopping online that you might like to buy later.
Retailers who want to increase online sales can integrate with Curate to have their products featured, which increases their brand exposure and drives traffic to their website.
What are the factors that mean you have a limited marketing budget?
We're an early-stage startup and are bootstrapping Curate, so it's important we keep costs down and are smart with our money. It's meant we've had to be a bit clever with how we do our marketing so that we keep costs to a minimum.
Given that, what are some things you've done to get your name out there as a business?
The most cost-effective form of marketing for us has been social media. It lets us engage with our audience online, which is perfect for us since we're an online business.
We've recently been doing some content marketing in the form of 'Eye Spy on The Block' blog posts each week where we source all the products bought by the contestants to make it easier for customers to buy the things they've seen on the show. So we source the products, write a blog post about it, then post it to our social channels, tagging in the featured retailers.
It's been a lot more effective than we expected, generating a lot of attention and conversation. But as well as that it's also given us a great opportunity to talk to the retailers whose products have been featured - who now all know who we are and what Curate is. Having the chance to engage with those retailers has been really great for us.
How have you grown your social media fan base in conjunction with creating that content?
When we launched our private beta, we implemented a referral mechanism, which encouraged users that requested an invite to refer their friends to gain early access. This has been really effective for us and we've seen about a 25 per cent viral boost from this alone. In other words, one in four new users came because someone shared our site.
But also with The Block posts we found a lot of people tag their friends in on them, to say 'you might like this' or 'you should follow this page'. That's great because obviously when people start tagging each other in things and engage with the posts in other ways they're shared on their friends' feeds as well. There are so many fans of The Block and it's interesting to observe how engaged people are with it.
So what kind of boost have you seen in your following on social media, and how has that translated into business?
Four weeks ago when we started The Block posts we had about 500 likes on our Facebook page and now we have nearly 2000. And in terms of our signups, they've tripled over that time, and I think that's helped by our refer-a-friend system. We've also had a good number of interested stores contact us in the past few weeks after seeing various social media posts.
Are there any other shoestring marketing strategies you've tried that have worked well?
Something else that has worked quite well has been getting our name out there by going to and entering events. We recently entered a Dragons' Den-style pitching competition run by Idealog called Pitch Circus. We had to pitch our idea in three minutes to a room full of quite savvy business people and fortunately we won the competition, which really helped to get our name out there. So I think it's just about putting yourself out there a bit and not being afraid of self-promotion.
Are there any shoestring marketing strategies you've tried that haven't been as effective as you'd hoped?
We haven't had much of a response from Twitter. This might be because we're not as active on it, but it seems there's less engagement on Twitter than other channels, especially Facebook.
Coming up in Your Business: I'm keen to hear about some of the interesting small businesses people are running in rural locations, and how their environment impacts on their operations. If you've got a story to tell about your rural business, drop me a note: email@example.com