For many startups, a marketing strategy gets between them and tactical execution. In theory, it seems like a good idea but strategic plans are bypassed or receive little attention because a startup is focused on getting stuff done.
But not having a marketing strategy is a major mistake. In fact, it’s a guaranteed way to ensure the time, money and energy spent on marketing will be wasted or be an inefficient exercise that doesn’t generate the expected ROI.
As much as marketing plans require time to develop, they are a short-term pain, long-term gain propositions.
So why is a marketing strategy important?
A marketing strategy delivers a much-needed roadmap for everyone involved in fast-growing a startup – founders, employees, and investors. It identifies the best opportunities and makes sure everyone knows what will drive awareness, leads, and sales.
A marketing strategy provides structure to a startup’s marketing. Rather than throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks – a common approach embraced by many startups – a marketing strategy provides focus and discipline.
A marketing strategy also provides guidance on when things will happen. And it places everything in context so key stakeholders see how marketing execution unfolds as an organized process.
A marketing strategy also provides a startup with the ability to prioritize tactical execution. One of the biggest mistakes startups make is doing everything at the same time. They embrace a newsletter, blog, social media, case studies, Webinars, and videos but discover that none of these channels is performing well. This shotgun approach to marketing doesn’t work because it spreads things too thin. In trying to be all things to all people, everything is mediocre rather than excellent.
In a recent blog post, Savvas Zortikis suggests growth is fueled by focusing on a single channel at a time, which is a dramatic approach. “If you want to nail a channel and acquire high-quality customers massively, you need to focus. You need to spend all your energy on a single thing. If you do a bit of everything, chances are that you’ll be mediocre at everything. If you want to grow, all you need is to find a channel and make it work.”
My approach offers more latitude. Rather than embracing one channel, it is important for startups to explore all their options and then decide how to prioritize the different channels.
This exercise involves three steps:
- List the potential channels to drive awareness, leads, sales, etc. This involves everything that is possible, regardless of their potential. You want to create the complete channel landscape to see the different options.
- Rank these channels based on the relevant criteria. This includes people, money, goals, and the expected ROI. Some of it involves quantifiable data (e.g. marketing budgets and staff), while ROI is an educated guess.
- With the channels ranked, prioritize them into three buckets: now, soon and later. Now is right away to three months out. Soon is three to six months. And later is six months to two years.
After completing this exercise, your marketing becomes more manageable because the channels have been divided and conquered. It becomes easier for a startup to identify the marketing activities that will make an impact in the short-term, while comfortably putting aside channels with less exciting potential.
It is a great way to establish a well-defined roadmap and focus everyone on what needs to happen right now. As well, a ranking exercise is a smart way to ensure dollars are spent on the right channels and initiatives.
A marketing strategy doesn’t mean startups can’t experiment. When you think about it, marketing is a series of experiments, and a marketing plan lets you make calculated or educated guesses on what works. That being said, it’s okay to run mini-experiments on the side. Let’s say, for example, that content marketing falls into the “now” bucket, but it okay to carve out a small budget for Facebook advertising to learn and see if there is a potential opportunity.
Another important part of a marketing strategy is measuring results. What is working and what’s not? This information determines if tactical tweaks are required or whether another channel should be seriously explored, perhaps one in the “soon” bucket. Measurement keeps everyone honest and reveals if your plan is working.
Marketing is a fluid and iterative process. A marketing strategy changes due to competitive pressures, product updates or shifting consumer needs. As a result, a strategic plan needs to be malleable and flexible to reflect the current landscape.
I’ve worked with dozens of startups and fast-moving companies looking to accelerate their growth with marketing powered by storytelling. My services are driven by frameworks and processes to create messaging, strategic plans and content. If you want marketing that makes a difference, let’s talk.
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