10 tips to know when marketing your startup
Azadeh Williams considers common mistakes that startup founders make when it comes to marketing. This article shares 10 tips to help startups create a sustainable, long-term marketing strategy that supports the buyer’s journey.
The idea of explaining what your startup does to prospects should seem pretty straightforward, but many founders are still falling over their own feet, overcomplicating marketing or underinvesting in it altogether.
In this article, I take a look at 10 ‘no brainer’ factors to consider when building demand for a startup product or service:
1. Invest in your ‘brand equity’
A common mistake we see many startup founders make is they invest heavily in a great minimum viable product, engineer it to perfection, raise the capital, but the brand looks terrible!
Think shonky logo design, a generic, dull mission statement and an underwhelming website that screams, ‘I got this done on Fiverr for ten bucks’. So before marketing your startup, ask yourself these key questions:
- How ‘valuable’ does my brand look in the eyes of prospects and the public?
- Does my brand look premium, polished, trustworthy and attractive?
- Does my brand shape up against the competition?
- Are my pitch decks and presentation slides on brand?
2. Unlock the power of market research in the early phases
Market research, feedback and understanding your customer is key before launching any product into the public eye. Take the time to undertake industry surveys. Aggregate as much data as you can from those who are in your target market. Analyse the data and leverage it to keep improving the product and hone in on who the target customer is and what they want.
3. Explain clearly what you do and how you’re different
If you can’t articulate what you do to your customers, then you’re missing the mark. What’s the point of investing in marketing your business when nobody understands what you really do or what problems you solve? There are all sorts of schools of thought when it comes to helping you explain what you do.
As a start, think about your customer’s problems first:
- What customer pain points do you solve?
- How do you solve these problems?
- What is the end benefit the customer gains from using your product or service?
- What is the emotional benefit the customer gains from using your product or service?
Once you can clearly answer all these questions, then you are on a better pathway to creating your key marketing messages. These messages can then dovetail into your go-to-market campaigns.
4. Set up your demand generation engine
Another common mistake startups make is providing no ‘experience beyond the product’ to generate demand. There’s no sense of community build, strategic inbound content channel, or a well-articulated buyer’s journey to get the customers through the door and then nurture them into becoming sales qualified leads.
Demand generation is a complex ecosystem. Unfortunately, a lot of startup founders either don’t understand or undervalue its power and potential. We see a lot of this.
5. Optimise regional go-to-market plans
Another critical factor to consider is how to tackle marketing when the startup wants to expand into new regions. Sure, you might have some level of success in one region, but you still need to create a ‘microcosm marketing space’ in a new region.
Avoid the ‘sales attack’ where you hire an army of salespeople expecting magic to happen in the new region, without a proper localised inbound marketing strategy that supports demand generation.
Local customers want to know how your startup can help businesses in their region. It’s critical to create local customer-centric stories, a customer-centric advocacy program and a local thought leadership program to generate regionalised demand.
As an example, you might have an amazing business in the US, but to grow in Australia, consumers want you to speak in an ‘Australian’ tone. It’s those things to consider and take seriously from the word go. Because the ones who do take it seriously, invest in local go-to-market campaigns and understand its value to the bottom line, are the ones who succeed.
6. Don’t overlook the power of video marketing
Many startup founders make the mistake of thinking video marketing is simply traditional ad campaigns, which can cost tens of thousands or even millions to get off the ground. The reality is that small-scale, integrated video marketing campaigns can quickly and clearly articulate what your business is about to prospects.
Think of a simple two-minute product video, a clearly articulated home page welcome video or a series of customer testimonials. These can then be amplified via paid and organic social channels. Done right, video marketing has the power to turbocharge awareness and demand for a startup.
7. Be your own brand ambassador
One of the most fatal mistakes founders can make is to be invisible across ‘public facing’ channels like LinkedIn, media outlets and events. People don’t do business with other businesses. People do business with people. This is particularly the case in B2B, if you’re not ‘seen’ as being truly passionate about your business, then you’re going to make gaining the trust of prospects that much harder, and closing sales much slower.
You don’t have to be the next Gary Vaynerchuk to achieve results, but hone in on understanding what it takes to launch a successful LinkedIn executive thought leader strategy. This can be a very low cost, but an exceptional way to build trust within your business and yourselves as founders. So get that social media training, get that media training and enlist in a sustainable thought leadership and PR strategy that will get you noticed by prospects.
8. Consider what to in-house and what to outsource
Any company, large or small, needs to have some sort of internal marketing capability. You can’t outsource every component of your marketing function and expect magic. There needs to be some internal capacity to either lead or facilitate a robust marketing strategy. Whether you want to use agencies, partner or hire someone in-house, remember there’s never one single person or one single agency that can do it all for you. There’s no such thing as an ultimate unicorn marketer, especially at the startup phase.
Do your research and find the right mix of specialists, not generalists, who can help your marketing efforts. They should be agile enough that they can start small on small projects, then scale with you as you grow. Take the time and do that research. Then make sure your budget, KPIs and metrics are clearly defined. There’s always a benchmark for measuring efficacy.
9. Get your metrics right
What we see time and time again is some confusion when it comes to marketing metrics. We have startups come to us and ask for ‘buzz and PR’ around their business, which could be through trade magazines. However, what they actually want is lead generation and PR can’t do this on its own.
If your metrics are leads, then you need to refine an inbound lead generation strategy, not put all your eggs into one basket with a one-off PR awareness campaign.
10. Avoid the fizzle after the fireworks
So you have just been approved a decent budget for marketing your startup. You splash the cash on the salary of a mid-level marketing manager, a few ads in trade magazines, a launch event, a basic martech stack, some Google ads and a PR agency to run your ‘launch media release’. It takes a good three months for your marketer to understand your product and business, then for everyone to sync and align on the go-to-market campaign. Then another 3 months to get the go-to campaign up and live.
The end result is for about a month, your name is up in lights, across the right media channels, you have some bragging rights to put across your social media and everyone pats each other on the back. And then? Nothing.
The budget has dried up, the marketing manager is burnt out and the PR agency is annoyed you’re trying to squeeze more from them for less.
The problem here? There’s no sustainable, long-term plan that supports the buyer’s journey. You’ve done the sprint, but forgotten that marketing a startup is a marathon. Marketing a startup, when done right, needs to ensure the business is consistently visible in the public eye. The marketing campaigns and activity should hit different points of the buyer journey.
Those who get it right, create an incredible ‘evangelical snowball effect’ with their marketing efforts, where demand continues to build and gain momentum, the sales cycle continues to shorten and customer advocacy and loyalty continue to scale.