Startups have a very tight constraint on people and budget resources, so it is critical to prioritize and use the resources wisely. It has been often said that techies need to learn to market and how just building a great product is not enough. Here is what I would consider as an ordered set of things for marketing to focus on in start-ups. Keeping a focus on this set will likely help you systematically build the momentum for your venture.
It is important to clearly establish in the minds of customers/users what your product/service offer is, and how it is different from directly competitive and other related/adjacent products in the space. In order to position, dedicate every effort to establish the sweet spot and differentiators for your product among your core audiences. Clearly articulate where the product/service fits in with user workflows, and communicate the value (more than features, value) it offers to users. Establish and drive home a unique compelling position and differentiation case for your product. Your website, blog, social presence, early customer references/wins and collateral should clearly lead and reinforce this unique positioning.
2. “Quick Spin” Trial Experience:
If you position well, people will want to take a ‘quick spin’ of your service/product. Make it really simple and easy so prospects can take a test drive without much of a hassle and see some quick indicative results. For example, if it is a software product – make it easy to download and install (self-serve if possible), if it is a service, consider offering a basic free service (either time expiry or limited by features). The experience should reinforce your positioning and it offers the opportunity for word of mouth/viral amplification among the community.
3. Establish Partnerships:
As you establish space for your products in the minds of the users, start exploring avenues for partnerships. You should constantly look to build channels to co-market – this will help bundle your product offering with others and establishes your interlock in the ecosystem. Co-marketing is a great vehicle to make your marketing spend and efforts count more – as you in effect make the sum greater than the parts.
4. Market Insight:
As a marketer, you will engage more with the community, so start keeping a keen eye on patterns that you are observing among prospect segments. These patterns (basically repeated requests or buying patterns from segments) will help you make recommendations in terms of pricing, discount offers etc. The aim of making such observations should be to help you build customer acquisition velocity. Finally, as you decipher the patterns, you may be able to make product/service development recommendations to the product development roadmap.
5. Lead Generation
I would venture to say that demand/lead generation is probably lower priority for a start-up (early growth stage venture). Your sales funnel treatment is likely not stable yet, so I see little point in pushing leads in to it. However, once you have developed established customer segments, then you can look at active demand gen programs among those segments. For most part, if you do 1, 2, 3 and 4 above reasonably well, you will get sufficient inbound queries and interest that can be passed on to Sales for follow-up. Obviously, once you reach some degree of steady state (for example you know what your sales cycle is, you know repeat purchase patterns etc.), you can start investing in to lead gen and nurturing in the marketing program mix.
What do you think? Are you spending your marketing efforts on other avenues?
In a future post I will talk about the marketing mix and program tactics related to the above.