Compared to established companies, startups often have to play by different rules. They are just starting their journeys into the business world and face additional challenges to conquer early on.
One of the biggest challenges is marketing. Because startups have little to no brand recognition and often offer a niche product or service which might be difficult to explain to outsiders, a foray into marketing has to be carefully considered. Whereas other companies may make use of tried-and-true techniques, startups have to be more creative in order to succeed.
5 Key Steps to Market Your Startup
1. Identify your key audience and influencers
Before you take one step, first identify where you will market your product. A staggering 42 per cent of founders cite a lack of market need as the number one reason for failure. Even if you have an outstanding product or an excellent service, it is absolutely useless unless people actually want to use it.
Of course, that’s not to say you should only cater to an existing audience. Steve Jobs famously said that people don’t know what they want until you give it to them.
For instance, smartphones were adopted extremely quickly, yet few people could have predicted their popularity. Even so, you must understand exactly who your product will be marketed toward so you can create relevant content and marketing campaigns that will actually interest your audience.
2. Analyze and plan accordingly
Entrepreneurs often hear that the majority of startups are doomed to fail before they are even conceived, a notion that is supported by hard statistics. In fact, 90 per cent of startups inevitably fail for one reason or another; that’s a fact every person in the business has to face.
The first step is to make a cohesive plan. As any entrepreneur will tell you, plans are also prone to failure. The turbulent nature of business will render a lot of them useless by the time they are supposed to come into fruition.
Even so, studies have shown that setting challenging and specific goals is linked to more effective performance and increased motivation. When you have clear objectives in sight, you work slowly toward achieving them.
Even if you fail in some steps along the way, keep working toward fulfilling your purpose. Hurdles and obstacles in the entrepreneurial world are not just common; they are to be expected at nearly every turn.
Once you carefully lay out your plans, it’s time to make an in-depth analysis of what makes your startup tick. Before you go into market and start promoting your product, it’s vital to properly understand what your startup is made of. It’s only when you can safely answer all the questions that may be thrown at you that you are actually ready to go out and meet the world.
3. Craft targeted and engaging content
Some of the most effective B2B marketers spend 39 per cent of their marketing budgets on content, and there’s a general trend toward creating relevant, targeted content for specific audiences. That’s why ignoring content creation is a bad idea. After all, the majority of consumers learn about a company through content rather than ads. Though this takes into account a number of different services and ways to serve content, as a startup you may be limited on the type of content marketing that you can create and push.
Blogs, however, are fantastic and inexpensive, and the vast majority of companies employ blogs for marketing purposes. Marketers who prioritize blogging see increased search-engine traffic, build their company’s authority in the industry, improve conversion rates, increase leads, and more. It’s not hard to see the benefits of such a practice, particularly because you have full creative control over what’s happening in your company’s blog. It’s a great way to create a brand identity, reach out to potential consumers, and create much-needed awareness for your brand, your product, and what it entails.
4. Make sure you’re on social media (your competitors already are!)
In this day and age, you have no excuse for not keeping up with social media platforms. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sites provide a free way of directly reaching out to your target audience. They are great places to promote your brand, explain how your product or service works, and keep your startup in the spotlight for as long as possible.
When you first start, social media management can easily be done by one person—often you, the founder. As you grow, you can always delegate social media marketing to other people within your company. Of course, first educate yourself in how social media marketing works. What you may think is simple and obvious might turn out to be a difficult lesson indeed.
5. Maintain engaging and interactive social media presence
In addition to being social, being interactive is of equal importance. If you maintain a social media presence that is faceless and cold, consumers will turn their backs on you. In the digital age, users expect their questions to be answered and companies to interact with them on a personal level.
As long as you respond immediately (or within two hours), 34 per cent of customers are more likely to complete a purchase with your company. In addition, about 43 per cent are much more likely to recommend your product or service to friends and family as well as promote it through social media. On the other hand, failing to respond may result in customers feeling indifferent about your brand, which means you won’t receive word of mouth advertising and a positive image in social media.
Common Mistakes Made by Founders When Marketing
- Putting too much trust in the idea of their product, not its real-world applicability. Since entrepreneurs live and breathe the products and services they offer, they often (mistakenly) think everyone will feel the same way.
- Failing to connect with customers and listen to their feedback. No one can offer a service without customers, and it’s the general population that largely defines the market.
- Failing to work out a personal, tailor-made plan for the company. Just because something works for another startup doesn’t mean it will work for yours.
- Managing the budget poorly. Though investments are necessary, they should be carefully thought out and executed since money is tight, especially in the beginning.
- Failing to identity the actual target market, and thus creating a completely irrelevant campaign. As mentioned before, in-depth research is absolutely necessary before attempting to reach your target market.
Take a Cue from other Entrepreneurs’ Successes
Shopify may be an incredibly successful Canadian company, but that wasn’t always the case. According to CEO Tobias Lütke, there are some key elements that all startups should take into account when they are trying to launch their business and introduce it to a wider audience.
First and foremost, a startup that fixes an existing problem is much more likely to be successful. Even better, if you create something that you need for yourself, it means that you will be that much more connected to the product. You’ll also have an easier time identifying the right market.
Find the right team. This can mean a number of different things, but in essence it boils down to finding people who share your passion for the product and who are also able to help with its growth. A team of engineers might create a fantastic product, but if no one else can use it, then it has no value in the market.
Expect to do everything at once. When you are just starting out, you may need to conduct a range of jobs that you’re not well-suited for—and that’s perfectly fine. Though you may just want to create a product and leave everything else for other people to handle, you’ll most likely need to address those issues by yourself. This also applies to marketing. No one knows your product better than you do, and creating a brand should and most likely will be your responsibility.
Be visible, both to your target audience and to any potential investors. For example, you may find that the product you offer will do great in another city, but if you’re not prepared to move, you may risk everything else. If you don’t have a presence, users who may have been interested in your product will simply be satisfied elsewhere, with another product.
Stay focused and true to your purpose. Once you start marketing your product, you will face a lot of challenges. You’ll also be confronted by a lot of distractions and failures. Being distracted and inconsistent is a surefire path toward failure because your users need to identify stability in your product. A company that doesn’t know what to do with itself is harder to trust.
By guest writer, Jonha Richman who is a marketing strategist with over 9 years of experience advising tech startups. She’s also a staff writer at Small Business Trends and her works were featured on The Huffington Post, Fast Company, Business Insider, among others. You may connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.