I’ll talk about the opportunities, tricks and basic tools in marketing for a startup.
In the world where any new business is under pressure from all sides, a startup is either a clear success due to the unique value of the idea or a clear failure, more often due to the inability to build adequate marketing around the business. Just think, 30% of startups at the beginning do not have a marketing strategy or a simple plan. If you have decided to promote your project, you should consider 10 factors that will increase the effectiveness of even a common quick and dirty planning.
1. You are the brand: if no one has heard anything about the startup so far, they may have heard of you
A perfect example of the success of the startup due to the name of the founder is the female-focused dating application Bumble, founded by the former Tinder co-founder and CMO, and now a member of the Forbes “30 Under 30” Whitney Wolfe Herd. The past success and popularity of her name in specific niches gave impetus to the rapid development of a new project: even the name of the startup is not as “loud” as her name.
Thus, founders need to think about their own name: it can either help thanks to an impeccable reputation or destroy the business because of rumors. Our agency faces similar situations quite often.
2. The budget comes first. The plan follows.
There is no universal formula for calculating the size of the marketing budget of a startup. Judging from my experience, 11-20% of the operating budget must be allocated for promotion. This figure remains unchanged until the business increases or that is to say, captures its market share, and then the available figure is 7-8%. In real life, only 1 out of 10 startups allocates one fifth of the funds for project development, while most of them are willing to spend only 1-5% initially. However, the amounts of money are more important than the share of the total budget. Understanding how much money you have provides a foundation for distributing it through promotion channels and activities.
Let me give you quite a simple example. What is easier: to go to the shop and buy everything you need for dinner distributing a fixed amount of money you have, or take a full basket (often products that will not give you a sense of fullness, i.e. the marketing effect), and then realize that you have spent almost all your money?
3. SMART goals are the basis of a clear and understandable way of a startup and not only in marketing
SMART goals are the goals that are aligned with the five criteria at the same time: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.
If you understand how much you are willing to spend on marketing, you can actually calculate the conversion of this budget. And that’s the point: conversion into what?
Here is a very appropriate example. Can you understand if 100 customers are a good result or not? Are 3 outlets enough or not?
SMART goals imply defining the most significant events for a business during a certain period of time. The goal for a business, that is just entering the market, will be quite objective: to get 120 customers worth $ 3.6 each within the first 3 months. The goal is based on the number of customers you need to get a return on investment from the business within a given period, and the budget is based on available (estimated) funds for marketing.
We use SMART goals not only for startups but also for working with mature businesses.
4. The Pareto principle: 20% of channels will bring you 80% of customers, but it is difficult to find such channels immediately
Surveys of small businesses and startups show that the largest number of companies attract customers primarily through social networks. Slightly fewer companies prefer e-mail, followed by media advertising, events, and influencer marketing. Although market trends are not always good for a startup (a new idea), whose audience may not always be just in crowded places.
To illustrate this idea, let’s remember what happened to the startup Omnidesk when it entered the market. Those channels that predicted a lot of traffic turned out to be simply voracious in terms of budget consumption and completely useless in terms of increasing demand. The company was able to find the right channels only by testing and searching for their audience and the way it wants to receive information about the product.
5. Each product must have a clearly defined target audience
Well, let’s discuss the audience. Previously, the market had the concept named “product for the audience”, whereas now it is “audience for the product“. To put it in other words, first startups are created and only then they look for ways to reach customers. The book called “The Four Steps to the Epiphany” by Steve Blank elaborates on this.
If you chose the classic way, and a product was created to satisfy the requirements of the audience, it is cool, but now you need to find where this audience is and tell it about the product. If you have a product and you do not know the audience, do not invest in advertising, just use the funds to identify the audience. It will help you to understand where your audience is, which way it prefers to learn about new products in the market and decides to buy them).
6. The product must be clear to the target audience. If it is not clear, first you must explain and then promote.
The statistics is disappointing: 90% of startups close down, and 10% of them close down in the first year. The key reason is a lack of understanding of the market demand, and, hence, of the target audience which leads to the closure of 42% of new companies.
If you are convinced of the success and usefulness of your idea, it does not mean that the audience will perceive it the same way. Thus, any marketing tool, at least in the first three months must be focused on the presentation of the values and benefits of the product, rather than selling “at a discount”.
An illustrative example is the system of contactless payments by mobile phone. The startup “Wallet”, which has been developing the idea of withdrawing funds and paying with a smartphone since 2012, was not taken seriously at first. According to the founder, one of the users of this technology was even called a scammer. The technology could have failed, but demonstrating the Japanese example of the success of similar solutions, among other business efforts, saved the startup and made it a billionaire.
7. KPIs are indicators of achieving goals within a series of sprints
How can you determine if you have achieved your goal if you do not track the effectiveness of intermediate stages? It is very important in marketing: to publish 10 press releases per month which should be read by 2,000 people, 10% of which should get on the site, and 3% – make a purchase, for example.
By the way, a very ambitious IT startup LayerVault has closed down due to the lack of performance control metrics. Kelly Sutton commented on the situation, “I think one of our biggest mistakes was the lack of regular review of key performance indicators”.
You should consider, at least, the marketing cycle, the cost of attracting a customer, the time of the first response and the conversion from potential to relevant buyers.
8. Delegate is the key to success
First, you need to understand what and how to promote, and only then trumpet it.
The founder cannot do everything, but it becomes obvious only after gaining enough experience. The owners of startups can spend about 40% of their working time on unproductive tasks such as hiring, staffing, and dealing with payroll.
It is normal to delegate tasks and it is especially true of marketing. Although only 15% of companies during the first 2 years outsource the development of a marketing strategy, while 71% outsource PR, while it would be better to do vice versa. First, you need to understand what and how to promote, and only then trumpet it.
9. Networking can do better than a good budget
It is crucial to create a viral idea of a startup in order to attract investments and customers. Clubhouse is a good example to illustrate this idea. Few people heard about Clubhouse in January 2021, but the market changed totally after the interview with Elon Musk. There is even a fact of rising prices by 100% on the shares of the Clubhouse Media Group, which was confused with the original audio application.
Find popular “friends” of your brand, and the success of a startup is guaranteed. Referral programs, bonuses, even a part of the company’s shares, if the word of an influential person is worth it, will work, as in the example of the Clubhouse.
10. Cross-marketing: are you ready to share fame?
The cost of basic marketing activities for a startup company can be quite high. The solution is to share the budget with a company with a similar audience and goals. However, there is one problem, fame will also be divided in half although it may be worth it. For example, in 1982, the now well-known companies Philips and Sony created the first digital audio disc as a part of a joint venture. Now the names of both of these companies are well-known. You should it try too.
It is better to give a man a fishing rod than feed him for a day. Just remember that you should plan your marketing budget and activities at the stage of creating a business plan, especially if you attract investments into your startup. Efficient activities and an adequate budget would be an asset. Moreover, it would be better to delegate marketing management to professionals from the very start.