via Forbes : No matter how unique its technology or how revolutionary its business model, a startup will have difficulty surviving without a marketing strategy that centers around customer acquisition. Marketing is the vehicle that builds the brand’s image and drives messaging to customers and prospects in a relevant, relatable way, but most importantly, it helps grow the sales pipeline.
Startup founders who might be dubious of marketing’s importance shouldn’t be so fast to write it off: Businesses have seen an “average 20% increase in sales opportunities from nurtured leads and found dramatic improvements to key conversion stages in the sales process,” according to research by DemandGen Report.
There is no reason for a startup to pause on marketing and the proven opportunity to multiply growth. Whether you’re running an agency taking on its first startup client or a professional making the move to a full-time gig, here are four key steps to jumpstart your marketing strategy:
1. Identify your customers (companies, buyers and users).
Before jumping in, prioritize a deep industry dive. This is by far the most important thing for a marketer to do. Start placing people and companies into categories to better understand your buyers and the different personas that are part of your user community. From there, research the deals you lost to see if there are any commonalities or any missing personas from your customer group. This process is the cornerstone of your marketing plan.
2. Begin to build your unique messaging.
Before kicking off an integrated marketing campaign, it is vital to identify messaging that will move the conversation forward with prospective buyers. Having command of your message ensures a consistent brand voice and will help your offerings better resonate with your customers’ range of needs and desires. If you’re looking for a place to start, pore through market research, sales and customer success feedback — and most importantly, interview your existing customers, as they are your most valuable resource for success. What are your target audience’s biggest challenges, and how do you solve them? What do you offer that’s different than competitors in the space? What keeps your customer up at night? You need these insights across all of your identified personas to understand each customer’s unique industry needs.
Depending on the stage of the startup you are working with, your marketing budget is probably limited. Targeted messaging will make the most of every single dollar by better positioning your solution with prospects. By honing in on what drives prospects’ decisions and how you can set your business apart from competitors, you can ensure your messaging hits home with each and every interaction.
3. Put your plan into motion — then track, measure and iterate.
Once you identify your audience and messaging, it is time to launch targeted campaigns that will make your startup visible. These campaigns should be multifaceted and map to your buyer personas — maybe you source and market a third-party research paper that includes interviews with your customers, release topical blog posts that address business needs or build a webinar series that features customer evangelists. What is important is that it is not a one-shot campaign but integrated to cover your buyers’ challenges and the journey that they will take — uncovering why your startup has a solution that will fit their company’s needs.
Whether you’re a marketing veteran or new to marketing strategy, never be afraid to leverage tactics and ideas that are outside of your comfort zone. Never used video to support your marketing efforts? Now is the time — 82% of marketers report success with video initiatives. Rethink direct mail, too. With services like Uber, Postmates and global-local business, you can really be creative and brighten someone’s day while highlighting your brand. Look to other brands outside of your industry for inspiration and see what they are doing and what you might be able to apply to your audiences.
As you dive into new marketing initiatives, be sure to have success metrics in place to gauge whether the campaign is delivering notable ROI. As you track each campaign, these metrics will allow you to determine whether the process is worth repeating, where some tweaks might be needed or what to totally scrap. As you identify what tactics work where (and with whom), you’ll then be able to iterate what works for continued success.
4. Keep pivoting.
Embrace disruption, embrace change. Many years ago, I realized I could live in my bubble and love all my favorite things, or I could just stay a bit uncomfortable and always try new things. I took the chance on being uncomfortable. I make mistakes all the time, but I learn from them each time, and I have also had some of the most amazing successes that I would never have had without taking risks.
As you begin to optimize your marketing strategy, you can measure both your new tactics and tried and true ones by holding regular check-ins with the sales team. Sync up to see what kind of feedback or pushback sales is hearing from prospects and where you can work to address any concerns. As you have these conversations, pivot your marketing strategy to better align with sales’ goals and challenges. Data supports this synchronicity: Research recently found that well-aligned sales and marketing teams generate 36% higher customer retention and 38% higher sales.
While putting a marketing strategy in place for a brand new startup might seem daunting, these four steps can help you get a plan up and running in no time. Invest time and intelligence in your marketing strategy, and optimize your account-based efforts so every communication aligns with the sales team’s goals and customer pain points. Now, I wish I could tell you that all that’s left is to dive in and watch your marketing plans take off, but nothing changes faster than marketing at a startup — so have fun and always stay agile. Startups = change, change = excitement and excitement fuels passion.