Last week I attended a networking event organised by IBEC in partnership with Bank of Ireland and sponsored by Skillnets in support of the StartUp Gathering 2015.
As one might expect, I bumped into a number of people who had recently started up a business venture. At one stage while I was explaining what we in O’C&K do (outsourced marketing), I realised that it is must be hard for a non-marketing person to grasp the importance of marketing, especially if they don’t understand it.
To ensure that marketing can deliver its magic for a business, it needs to be planned for properly, in advance. That is why I thought I’d put pen to paper (so to speak) and provide some tips on startup marketing below.
It is fully understandable that many startups cannot see the ‘forest’ because they are so focused on the trees. Focusing on the immediacy of the trees is also understandable because they are tangible and provide short-term results.
Such items as planning revenue, sorting out premises, legal and compliance procedures, cash flow and IT items are usually the front-of-mind concerns, but marketing should be there as well.
A startup that doesn’t take the time to plan for customers and how to communicate with them is bound to fail. The truth is that you must look on marketing as an investment, just like all the other elements of a startup. Then it just might perform some magic for your bottom line.
Unfortunately, many founders don’t see that marketing should be an integral part of their overall strategy from day one. As a result, they only embrace it after they’ve launched, which is often too little too late and really lessens the communication’s impact.
Another condition that we encounter quite a lot is that everybody considers themselves to be a marketer. The number of times that I have heard – ‘oh my partner / friend / family / neighbour had some great ideas for publicity so we don’t need to hire anybody’ – is staggering.
When these ‘ideas’ don’t work people then consider marketing a time-suck and a waste of money. So they put it further down the to-do list or worse still, ignore it altogether. They start relying on the features of the product / service for marketing purposes. The ‘build it and they will come’ mentality.
The only advice that I can give, if you’re not employing a marketing professional, is to consider (or better still – involve), your potential audience at each development stage and start thinking about a marketing strategy from the moment you have that great idea.
Start-ups should really look on marketing as an investment, just like any other element of your planning.Click to tweet
Initial tactics that startups can use to bring in customers.
In fairness, most startups appreciate that they will need marketing at some stage, but as mentioned above it can end up low on the ‘to-do’ list, for all sorts of reasons. The main reasons appear to be time, money and lack of experience. Here are some thoughts that might help overcome those challenges, initially.
- Despite what some bloggers say – email is not dead. It is a very effective method of engaging an audience in a direct and measurable way. There are many free services available (such as MailChimp), with which you can automate newsletters etc.
- Social media is another way of attracting customers. If possible, allocate even half an hour a day on a channel where your prospects are conversing. Many communities on social media form free local networking groups (e.g. dubnet). These can work to collect leads, build awareness and learn from peers.
- See our post here, about good networking habits.
- How about looking around for marketing opportunities by creating a joint campaign with a complimentary business e.g. hotel / sports club, gym / spa, theatre / media outlet, beautician / hairdresser, SEO / web design, recruitment / printer etc.
- This one goes without saying – it is imperative that you have a user-friendly website.
- Finally, you could look at doing a small direct mail campaign in your area, sponsor an element of a local event or advertise in community newsletters.
If you don’t have time for any of these elements, you really should get help from the ‘outside’, as early as possible. Have a look at some services listed on our website, to get an idea of what areas you should be thinking about.
Tips and Timesavers.
There are no magic bullets of course but in order to avoid being a startup casualty, try and plan for the following from the get-go:
- Use a revenue goal to measure your business – over a two year period.
- Go after the small and easy prospects first – generate up-front cash.
- Decide how you will be different from any competitor – avoid sameness.
- Don’t undertake new things that aren’t on your to-do list (plan) – stay focused.
- Be willing to change based on customer experience – be flexible.
To use a rugby analogy – earn the right to go wide i.e. don’t be distracted by long-term prospects – focus on the first two years and earn the right to survive.
Now that your business is up and running and you want to move your startup to the next level of business communication, consider formalising these 7 elements:
- Branding – your brand identity says a lot about you. Your name, logo, a tagline should back-up your brand promise, remember – first impressions count.
- Marketing communication – fliers, brochures, business cards, packaging, signs (including online) etc. all reflect your business professionalism.
- Channels of communication – can your customer contact you in a way that they prefer? e.g. mobile phone, email, postal address, skype, google hangouts and face-to-face.
- Online presence – your website is often the only place that a customer engages with your brand. They should have an excellent user experience at all times.
- Social Media – work is required to find out where your actual prospects are, when they are there and what’s important to them.
- Blogging – helps SEO, delivery of value to customers / prospects and is a way of embedding your brand story in people’s lives.
- Marketing campaign – a short, flexible and simple campaign using online and offline channels for promoting your business should always be measurable Professional help will probably be required with this element.
Marketing is vital to your startup planning. It defines your business and lets prospects understand who you are and what you do.Click to tweet
When it comes to using magic to bring your ‘wonderful idea’ into reality you need to start by determining exactly who your audience is and what matters to them. Thereafter, effective marketing will build a structure for relationships to be created and nurtured in order to ensure business opportunities in due course. And that would be magic.
“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.
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