Marketing strategy for my startup… Where do I start?
You’ve taken the leap, left your safe full time job and started your own business. You know your product inside out and everyone you know tells you it’s a great idea.
THIS IS GOING TO BE A SUCCESS!
Then it starts to get sticky.
You need a website, you’ve signed up to ALL of the social media, a friend has done some business cards and told you that you need to be better at marketing if you want to be a success.
That’s when you start to panic.
Such a small word but one that terrifies even the most astute of entrepreneurs.
What do I know about marketing? I’ve seen ads on TV. I entered a like and share competition on Facebook once. That doesn’t mean I’m qualified to do marketing, right?
Fear not, help is at hand.
First Things First
It’s always great to give a definition, so everyone starts on the same page. What is marketing? Well, the clue is in the name: MARKETing… it’s about understanding your market. Or to put it another way; do you understand your customers?
If you’ve answered yes to that, then you’ve made a brilliant start to a career as a marketer.
Facebook promotions, Instagram posts, ads in your local paper, a TV ad or sponsoring a sports team are all tactical outputs of marketing, but they should all flow from the starting point of understanding your customer.
In other words, the tactics come last, not first.
Success Starts With Strategy
The first step to marketing nirvana is to create a marketing strategy, which is why my motto is success starts with strategy. It might sound really scary and it can bring even MBA students out in a cold sweat. Strategy conjures up images of huge documents, off-site weekends for the leadership team and dour consultants. You can take this approach, but for most start ups, I’d advise against it.
Instead, to create a marketing strategy, just answer these three questions in as much detail as you have:
- Who is going to buy what you’re selling?
- Why are they going to buy it?
- What are your SMART objectives?
When you’re answering these questions, you need to be as critical as possible. Use your own experience, but also talk to people to get their input.
Avoid family and friends. They are well meaning, but are usually the least critical audience you’ll ever have. Instead, get groups of people who fit the profile of your customers and talk to them about the problems they have and how they solve them.
Ideally you’d do that before you launch, but I’m old enough to know that most start ups launch because they love what they do, not because market research has shown a juicy segment worth exploiting. To be absolutely clear, you never lose anything by talking to customers (and potential customers) to understand their pain and how you can fix it, so invest time and energy into doing that as part of creating your marketing strategy.
SMART objectives are also crucial, they’re not just a line from a bad management handbook. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound and they help sense check the assumptions you’ve made about the target market. They’ll also help you budget and understand what you need to sell to stay in business and in the champagne lifestyle you’ve been dreaming of.
And finally, I’ve got one more tip for creating a marketing strategy – make it visible. Don’t write this document and stick it in a draw to gather dust. Put the highlights on a wall in your office, see who you’re talking to every day and know what your objectives are – it helps keep the customer at the heart of what you’re doing.
Move Fast And Break Things
Starting your own business is one hell of a crazy ride. You learn an awful lot about business, your ideas, your friends and yourself in a very short space of time. Much of this comes from doing, learning and iterating. The same applies to your marketing.
Facebook once had a motto of move fast and break things, which is useful, to a point, for your marketing.
Once the new marketing strategy is stuck on the walls, I see many small businesses paralysed. They’ve heard the horror stories about companies making mistakes on social media or are overwhelmed by the plethora of channels available and end up doing nothing.
I can’t tell you if your marketing strategy is right or if your marketing strategy is wrong. But I can tell you that if you don’t implement your strategy, then it will never work.
Get started. Look at the analytics. Review what you’ve done. Track where the sales are coming from. Ask your customers how they heard about you. Use this data to improve what you’re doing. Don’t be afraid to kill things (not people) if they’re not working.
I had a chat with a small business owner recently, which I’ll paraphrase:
Me: Are you getting any business from social media?
Them: From Facebook.
Them: I just don’t have time to do more though.
Them: It takes so long to post on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and Snapchat.
Me: How much business have those other channels brought you this year?
I often describe strategy with a simple phrase:
Strategy is deciding what you’re not going to do.
Your time is finite and has a lot of demands on it, so treat it with respect. Every day you’ll be faced with deciding on where to spend your time and the decisions you make will largely be responsible for whether your business will succeed or fail.
So value your time and don’t be afraid to kill things that aren’t helping you achieve those objectives that you’ve stuck on your office wall.
Good luck and enjoy the journey!