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One of the biggest challenges for startups when it comes to marketing is how to get started. There are so many options that it can be intimidating to jump on the bandwagon, even if it seems like the right thing to do it.

Startups shouldn’t be afraid of marketing because it plays a key role in driving their growth and success. In many ways, marketing is a lot like jumping into a lake. At first, it is a shock to the system but it quickly becomes a comfortable and rewarding activity.

In this post, I’ll walk you through the key components to launch your marketing activities:

why marketingWhy Marketing?

The first step is the most important because it sets the stage for everything that follows. For a startup to really embrace marketing, it has to be clear about three key issues:

  1. What are the reasons that it wants to do marketing? Does the business need to raise brand awareness, attract more leads and sales, raise capital, attract media coverage, etc.? Is the competition capturing more of the spotlight?
  2. What are the goals and objectives for marketing? How will success be defined and measured?
  3. What’s the commitment to marketing in terms of people, time, and money?

Answering these questions provides startups with much-needed insight and perspective about why marketing matters and what it wants to achieve. It allows a startup to be focused and disciplined as it gets into marketing and, in time, becomes more active.

What Do You Do?

Too many startups struggle because they fail to articulate what their product does, the benefits and who it needs it. Instead, they make it difficult for potential customers, partners and investors to easily understand why a startup matters.

business model canvasMarketing thrives when corporate messaging is clear and compelling because it is easier to get intrigued, interested or curious about what a startup is doing. Marketing thrives when a startup tells the world how it is better or different.

Tools: The Business Model Canvas or variations such as this one created by Jon Westenberg.

Who Needs It?

Who needs your product? It’s a straightforward question but many startups fail to get the answers needed to drive product adoption and sales. For marketing to work, it is crucial to know your target audiences. What is their demographic make-up? What are their problems, fears, needs, interests, and motivations? What products are they using and why are they exploring alternatives? How do research product purchases and what information do they need to enter and move down the sales funnel? 

What is their demographic make-up? What are their problems, fears, needs, interests, and motivations? What products are they using and why are they exploring alternatives? How do research product purchases and what information do they need to enter and move down the sales funnel? What role do they play in the purchase process? With this insight, marketing works better because it is planned and created to serve the needs of the right customers at the right time.

With this kind of in-depth insight, marketing works because it is planned and created to serve the needs of the right customers at the right time.

Tools: Personapp or Make My Persona to create buyer personas, which makes it easy to divide target audiences into specific types of buyers. Having three to five buyer personas is a good start.

Establish Your Marketing Priorities

marketing prioritiesFrom personal experience, marketing goes pear-shaped when startups take on too many things at the same time. It spreads thin their efforts, which often means the results are, at best, mediocre or, even worse, marketing doesn’t happen at all.

The better way is a three-step approach:

  1. Identify the different marketing channels a startup could leverage to reach its target audiences. I’m talking about ALL the options that could possibly work.
  2. Rank the marketing channels based on their potential to achieve results (e.g. leads, sales, downloads, demo requests), as well as the resources (time, money, people) needed to drive tactical execution.
  3. Divide your marketing activities into three camps: now, soon and later. Focus on a small numbers to increase the chances of marketing success. In many cases, less is more because it instills discipline, focus and establishes reasonable expectations.

Tactically Execute

When a startup knows the marketing it needs to do and the people it has to reach, it is a matter of jumping into the fray. In many cases, marketing will not be perfect or, for that matter, it may not work. The only way to succeed is doing it. As much as a startup can plan its marketing, it is often a series of experiments to see what works and what fails.

Measure, Measure, Measure

Depending on a startup’s goals, metrics and benchmarks need to be established to track and measure results. Again, it depends on the objectives – Website traffic, leads, sales, demo requests, downloads, social media mentions, partnership inquiries. The only way to determine success – or failure – is measuring activity, which then can be reviewed and analyzed to drive insight, learning and strategic and tactical changes.

Tools: Google Analytics, Chartbeat, Woopra, KissMetrics, HotJar

Tweak, Experiment, Stay the Course

Once a startup knows how its marketing is performing, it needs to determine next steps. What’s working? What’s not working and why isn’t it working? What needs to be changed, tweaked or scrapped? Marketing is fluid and dynamic rather than being a set it and forget it activity. Even when things are going well, it is important and necessary to fiddle with the dials to optimize and improve things.

Summary

Startup marketing doesn’t need to be daunting or intimidating. In many respects, it is driven by knowing what you do, why it matters, who matters and how to connect with target audiences. This establishes the key pillars upon which marketing can be planned and executed. The path to effectively embracing marketing involves a series of straightforward steps. 

There will be bumps in the road and marketing that doesn’t work or achieve desired goals, but the key is committing yourself to marketing and staying the course. It’s a marathon, not a sprint but you need to get in the race.


 If you’re looking to jump-start your startup marketing, I can help you make it happen – everything from messaging and brand positioning to strategic planning and content development. Here’s how you can explore the different ways we can work together.

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