The ultimate guide to start-up marketing costs

So, you’re thinking of going out on your own with an education-based business? You’ve got the skills, the experience and the enthusiasm.

And you live for making people’s lives better through education. You can totally imagine your life running an education-based business where you get to make a difference in people’s lives.

But you’ve got no experience in marketing and you’re really not sure what costs are involved in starting up a business.

You know that marketing matters, and it’s the key to attracting clients. But where do you start with marketing your business? and how do you decide what’s worth spending money on, and what’s not?

I’ve been there and I know the struggles and stress of start-up marketing costs.

It’s why I want to help you avoid the mistakes I made and help you get started the right way.

 

This two-part series outlines the investments I think are the most important and the ones you really need to budget for.

A business plan

While many people wing it, or tell you that you don’t need a plan, I believe a solid business plan is fundamental to having a clear direction, and achieving growth and success.  Your business plan is the first step to planning out your start up marketing costs and how much you can afford to spend.

Why? 

Think of a business plan as a combined compass and roadmap. It guides you, lets you know when your course needs correcting, and most importantly, lets you know when you’ve reached your destination. 

It doesn’t have to be big and scary, and it doesn’t have to be perfect before you go searching for your first client. It’s a living, breathing document that you check in with regularly. 

It’s the place where you document your strategy and your goals, and makes it easy when you want to evaluate your performance to see if you’re on track. 

You can easily get started with the free business plan template provided by the Australian government.

 

A marketing plan

While your business plan guides and tracks your operations, your marketing plan guides and tracks customer awareness and promotion of your business.

A good marketing plan (combined with good execution) will deliver consistent traffic, and help you manage your budget and cashflow.  Keeping an eye on your start up marketing costs is essential to knowing how your ROI is tracking.

Without a marketing plan, you’re likely to send out untargeted, uncoordinated and confusing messages about your business. This will 100% affect the volume and quality of traffic you attract, and ultimately, your bottom line.

Getting someone to help create a basic marketing strategy to get you started will cost around $300, depending on how much support you need.

If you prefer to DIY, the Australian government has a free marketing plan template. Or try your local council or state government and see what free resources they have.

 

Branding and tone of voice

In a highly connected world where almost anyone, anywhere, can start a business, it’s essential to stand out. The education and course-based business market is becoming extremely crowded, so you need to find something truly unique to be seen and heard.

This is where branding and tone of voice can help you capture the attention of your target market.

When you develop a brand and voice that’s uniquely you, it’s virtually impossible to be a clone of another business. You can have similar services, similar pricing, and even similar ways of delivering your offer. But your brand and voice can catapult you into a completely different space, where loyal clients become raving fans.

 Why?

Because people are tired of same-same. They crave something they haven’t felt before. They crave authenticity. They crave connection. Brand and voice is how you can get there.

 As an experienced copywriter, digital marketer and educator, I can help you with this. 

Getting a Brand Voice Guide, a deep dive into the way you want your brand to look, feel, and sound is a great investment. It gives you the words to make your brand sound like ‘you’.

Think of brands like Coke, Nike, Amazon – they are instantly recognisable from the words they use. 

For a brand new business, expect to pay around $800-$2000, depending on the amount of detail you’d like to see in your guide, and the amount of clarity you have already around your messages.

 

Website development

Think of your website as the shopfront for your business. 

It tells people who you are, what you offer, and how they can do business with you. And even if you have a physical shopfront with educational products, you still need an e-commerce website. This will allow you to remain competitive, expand your reach, and safeguard against previously unforeseen risks like COVID and lockdown.

Getting by without a website in 2021 and beyond is no longer an option. If you want to be taken seriously, you simply must have a website. It’s also the place people turn to for social proof. That is, backing up what you say you can do with great reviews, testimonials, awards or media endorsements.

For an education-based business, a website is crucial. Whether it’s how your clients access your content, buy your products, or how they decide if they can trust you, you need to invest in a good quality website. By good quality, I mean an SEO-optimised, fast, responsive, user-friendly and engaging site.

I don’t create websites, but I can recommend some great developers and designers who do. The ones I recommend start from $1500+ for a basic site. 

There are cheaper DIY options with basic templates, but be aware that the ‘free’ site builders have control of your content. And only the most basic packages are free, you’ll need to pay monthly fees for adding on different functionality. 

For a sales website (where your clients or customers will transact online), I would recommend Shopify, or a WordPress site with Woocommerce built in. You’ll need to pay for hosting (I recommend SiteGround with Divi from Elegant Themes) and your domain names (I recommend Name Cheap).

Expect to pay from $150 annually for decent hosting and around $20 annually for a single domain.

 

Your homework assignment!

Feeling like you’re starting to get clarity as to how much it costs to start a business? I wish I had a guide like this back when I first started mine, as I’m pretty sure it would have saved me from several costly mistakes. 

In Part Two  of this two-part blog series, I’ll go over the remaining start-up marketing costs that I believe you should start budgeting for.

 Until then, I’m going to set you a homework task.

Download the free business plan template I recommended and make a start on your plan by noting the marketing costs I’ve shared in this post.