Effective marketing for a startup company is all about focus. You’ve got limited time (you’re likely already working 80+ hours per week!) and little budget, so it’s essential to judiciously optimize the use of both.
Part one of this two-part series dealt with laying the groundwork for startup marketing: branding, messaging, and honing in on your target customer persona or ideal customer profile (ICP).
Based on previous research here, pretty much all entrepreneurs launch their ventures for the same reason: a passion for solving a specific problem.
When people are passionate about an idea, they typically want to tell everyone about it, in great detail. That’s human nature. But it it’s not effective marketing. The best marketing practice is tell the right people the most compelling essence of the story—and then provide more details to those who show interest. Here are three key steps.
Just as you probably wouldn’t try to drive to an unfamiliar location without using GPS, it’s best not to jump into marketing without a plan.
Don’t reinvent the wheel here, though. You’ve got better ways to spend your limited time. Google startup marketing plan template and you’ll get dozens of ideas. The point isn’t to copy what anyone else has done, but rather to capitalize on proven models that have already been developed. Check out several, pull out the best parts, and create something that works for you.
The primary focus of your earliest startup marketing efforts will likely be networking. It takes a fair amount of time, but very little money, and it can help you connect with a small number of highly targeted prospect quickly.
To facilitate your online and offline networking efforts, use a free CRM tool to stay organized, keeping track of who you met with, when, what you discussed, what kind of follow up is needed, etc. (just make sure to choose one that will let your export your data to more professional CRM tools down the road).
Your marketing plan should ideally be fairly detailed in the short term—commonly 90 days out—but more fluid and flexible after that, to enable you to take advantage of new opportunities and changing conditions. Update the plan monthly so you always have a “solid” 90-day plan in place, with ideas and potential activities noted beyond three months out.
Typically, your only full-time marketing staff right out of the gate will be the same as your full-time finance, operations, and development staff, which is to say…you.
But of course, you’re probably not skilled at every aspect of marketing—writing, video production, graphic design, email marketing, pay per click (PPC) advertising, SEO, PR, influencer marketing, etc.—so it’s best to outsource most of these functions to freelancers or small agencies.
Some freelancers may accept equity in your venture as partial payment for their services, but keep in mind this has tax and fundraising implications. You’ll need professional, paid financial and legal help to set this up properly. Carefully consider whether it’s worth the hassle.
As your business grows and you begin to build your marketing team, you may want to make your first hire an individual who brings project management and email marketing skills. These are arguably the most important elements of marketing to bring in house, once revenue supports that.
Your next two hires will probably be at a level above your first hire (an executive who can set marketing strategy and be part of your leadership team) and one below (a coordinator who can take care of basic tasks like list management and event logistics).
Even as your team scales up, it will make sense to continue outsourcing for specific skills like influencer marketing, video editing, SEO, PPC, and graphic design, where it’s hard to justify full time staff until you’ve grown your business far beyond the startup stage.
Measurement is vital, even when your marketing activities are still fairly simple. Metrics enable you to understand where you are at, what the trends are, and what’s working (and not) to help decide what to do more of, less of, differently, or not at all. Every startup should have at least two basic tools in place:
Google Analytics: While Google doesn’t provide official numbers, estimates are that Google Analytics (GA) is installed on 55% of the top one million websites, and 53% of the top 10 million. And with good reason. GA is arguably the most powerful free tool for tracking your online marketing results (website traffic, sources, most popular content, conversions by type and source, who’s visiting by company, and much more).
A CRM tool: This is vital not only for keeping track of your networking activities, as noted above, but also for tracking all of your offline marketing efforts: how many and the status of contacts that came from trade shows, other live events, phone calls, direct mail, and any other non-digital marketing tactics you use.
Even early on, you may also want to implement other measurement tools like simple A/B testing to tell you things like which ad or version of a landing page is more effective. As your startup grows, you can utilize more sophisticated web analytics tools like Klipfolio, PaveAI, or Supermetrics.
This was the second in the series of posts here about startup marketing. With these six elements in place—branding, key customer definition, messaging, planning, staffing, and measuring-—you are ready for world domination. Or at least to grow the idea you are passionate about into a profitable, growing business.