Our startup is PubliciTweet. We're like a Constant Contact for Twitter. While in public beta the service is completely free. We are most interested in acquiring more users than setting up payment options for using the service.
Our potential user base is large and we've tried to identify a couple to begin targeting. These are journalists and musicians. While we've identified them, we're not really sure how to go after them.
Right now we have about 800 users that have created over 1,200 campaigns on Twitter that have generated 50,000 clicks. That is the general overall stats.
It's not the amount of money, it's how you use it.
Probably one of the best ways is to create good connections with people in your main customer segment (or at least what you think that is for you). Looking at your website, you already have nicely designed website so at least you have done that right even before starting other parts of marketing.
Some might say that Google AdWords would be useful, but I'm not sure if that would be the best way in the beginning. More than that, you should be focusing to the exact web sites where you know there would be a good amount of interested people for your service.
One possible way could be to do some sort of interaction with other service providers in a way that would benefit both of you. Be helpful and nice as you are making the service for people (who are not just some unknown users).
Find a marketing professional who will spend some time with you without charging you. From there you can see if it makes sense to hire someone to do something for you. The good thing about independent professionals is that they will give you more objective advice. Many, many times I see entrepreneurs who are so close to their company and product that they can't get the perspective they need to make good choices. Just because you think something is cool or a good idea doesn't mean that it is. The good thing about the space you're in is that you can fail quickly and move on.
I'd wonder about the musician market, since most of them are broke.
I'd like to offer you a completely different perspective since I'm not a Twitter user:
First, I'd suggest you improve your web copy. After I read your home page, I wondered: What's the benefit? Consider your copy from the perspective of a prospect: Why not simply make a public tweet about the new album or the new article? Where's the advantage when using your service?
Your features -- that your service makes it easier to send out many direct messages, to target different groups, and to track the results -- are valuable, only, if a prospect understands the benefit.
Second, I wonder whether musicians and journalists are really your best target audiences?
The web is full of web marketers and they are used to create campaigns. Almost by definition, they always promote something or know someone who does. If you think about their typical tool box (SEO, SEM, etc.), it should be easy to find them: search for appropriate forums, Facebook groups, conferences, journals, newsletters, and, of course, Twitter accounts.
Some of them even promote themselves to other marketers. They are also more likely to promote your service because many of them need new content for their blogs. So use a Blog search engine to find the most influential bloggers. Probably, they are also more used to the idea of being contacted for promotion purposes.
However, if you like to target musicians: why not reach out to others who already sell something to musicians? For example, companies producing music equipment, journals and web sites reviewing music equipment or the music industry, internet forums about hard disc recording, etc. Get in contact and try to find a way to cooperate or research advertising opportunities. Some of them may already have a Twitter account and many of their followers are likely to be musicians, so try to have them tweet about your service.
Additionally, you should be able to build a list of potential contacts quite easily. Musicians need to promote themselves and sell their music. There are already quite a few websites who try to help them do that. Think Amie Street and similar services for independents. Get the band names, search the web or MySpace for their home page and then contact them by E-Mail.
The same line of thought could be used for journalists.
Should definitely consider inbound marketing, and building a community of users - both on and off your site.
As part of that you will need to 'talk' to your users and get hear from them what they like about your product so that you can emphasize those in your marketing message.
With a limited budget I would spend it on getting a good graphic design done for your site - so that you look professional (see 99designs.com), and do the hard leg work for the rest.
Interesting target segments you have selected. Were they selected after studying the initial analytics for the service?
I would do my best to start getting plugged on blogs such as Darren Rowse TwiTip or Brian Clarks Copyblogger. This would help widen the overall appeal of the service and get the word out there regarding your service.
Some case studies of how journalists or musicians have successfully used your service would really help in understanding the power of the service and how it can be utilized effectively.
You could sponsor a local networking in your area and specifically target the two segments you have identified. This could be a good way how to showcase your product in person to your target market and get some feedback on the spot as to what they think about it.
Lastly, I would probably launch a blog for the service and have it focused around how twitter as a platform is being leveraged for marketing activities etc.
Save the few thousand, do some Internet homework, perform self-SEO and get active in social networking. When those actions shift gears or fail you will have a better idea where you need the money the most. You could run through the startup cash in no time with AdWords just learning to do it right. Don't be hasty with your limited cash.
I'm a journalist. If you want to reach journalists and have a budget, start with a press release in an appropriate channel. (I'm in Canada, which would be a limited market for you, so not so helpful.)
Also, there are several databases of journalism contacts - these are a much better place to start than trying Google AdWords or more traditional advertising sources. Start a conversation and work the database, just like a PR agency would.
As a journalist, I'm contacted all the time and the key thing is an intriguing subject line in the email (the old "what's in it for me" approach) followed up by a really concise, interesting email message. Some people follow-up by phone, but email is almost always the first point of contact.
I know Twitter quite well at this point, so I think you've really nailed it about who your current market is. What you're saying is, the company is Twitter-based, you're currently connected and highly regarded by your current following, so I say use this, definitely.
You may or may not get much money right away, but no one said it would be easy! As you gain reputation and clout, believe me, the big boys are looking for someone to handle things, so they'll come to you.
As far as I can tell, your target markets have very, very clearly defined needs, but not much money at all. I'd approach them with an incredible, "value-added" feature that they just can't refuse. This all may be more work than you're interested in doing, but if you want to utilize your current contacts, I believe that this is really the best way to do it:
Musicians want paying customers - offer to make them a little site with their mp3s playing for download, do a little bio, offer them a little customization, and this is their "product" that they are going to promote with your service. Most don't have s site already, and don't have the time or know-how, but this can be done relatively easily and inexpensively, with their own dotcom and everything.
Journalists want knowledge on PR, marketing and, more specifically, Internet marketing. Journalists may also really appreciate being "branded" with their own site, so I'd say offer this to them as well, but you'll find with journalists that they are struggling to catch up with technology and diversify their skill set. Check out Poynter and see what they're offering.