When to start marketing for a startup?

If you have the time, resources, and skills, you will market your startup constantly. In this article, I cover my preferred marketing route. 

While working at several advertising agencies and then leading a well-funded marketing team for a Series D brand, I discovered a gap in the market. Time and tide allowed me to offer a clean advertising service with 100% transparency in time and cost and serve business owners/decision-makers who want fast growth. In order to test the service-market fit, I went around networking events and spoke to people I had previously worked with, and that’s all I needed to start. I truly felt that I was offering something that is new (more of this, in another article). 

Therefore, the first activity is always sales, founder-led.

This obviously required an investment, and every interaction was an opportunity to learn about the gaps. It was a steep learning curve for a person who prefers the desk over shaking hands. I was able to find the key successful pitches:

  • I offer 100% transparency in time and cost, and if you run ads, I am willing to exhibit performance improvement within a month.
  • I operate almost as a part of your brand and hold your needs above the advertising platform.
  • Most people can optimize money, but I can optimize time. 

That brought me to the second stage, which was literally burning the midnight oil, getting superior results within the month and proving the values I stood for. Now, that meant I needed to work to acquire more customers. 

Influence growth via organic activities.

This involves communication with current customers and specifically revolves around the ability to influence the following key metrics:

  1. Get referrals.
    • Can we communicate with our current customer base? If so, can we create a referral pitch that your base can use to invite referrals? At times, incentives for both referee and referrer may produce a better impact. Explore this idea.
    • Do your current customers love your product (or service)? If yes, explore the creation of social proof via testimonials, reviews, and case studies of client success. These valuable pieces of content can be posted on your website and social channels. You may use third-party review collection platforms like Google, Facebook, Capterra, G2 Crowd, and so on.

I could have chosen paid marketing or finding another strong partner with a sales network. 

While the science behind referrals was discovered, my customer base was small, and I was still talking price instead of value. So, I did a test advertising project to measure the paid marketing system. 

  1. Get repeat transactions.
    • If the product/service is naturally consumable frequently in a given period, have you considered ways to incentivize re-consumption? Loyalty and value addition for repeat purchases are great ways to influence recurring revenue.

And that’s what I did. I went crazy about offering customizable retainers as long as the monetary value of time was positive on a given relationship.  

If your product is consumed frequently, waiting for it to happen is a poor decision. Loyalty methods cost much less than new customer acquisition. If you find loyalty methods cost-prohibitive relative to the value you offer to your client, test out your paid marketing activities. 

  1. Cross-sell and up-sell
    •  This tactic applies purely to brands with a wider portfolio of goods. When customers love your brand, introducing newer portfolios is sometimes all it takes to increase revenue.

I didn’t have more than advertising, so this was a pure no-go for me.

Decisions: I frequently find that start-ups have a very focused portfolio; hence, this decision is simpler. Plan, test, and derive insights with your paid marketing.

Remember my paid advertising tests? Most of them failed, and the reason was straightforward: content is king. I didn’t allocate time and budget towards it. 

If you need someone to evaluate your current organic opportunities, contact us via the contact form for a free consultation.

Best case scenario

Let’s say you have acquired a strong customer base with your organic methods and still want more. This is where you start with segmenting your customers into easily addressable target audiences. What do I mean? Let’s say a tailor serves several ethnic profiles or events; it is fairly easy to construct a marketing plan with content, platform, journey and conversion hook.  

Need help? Get in touch. 

Neither here nor there

Well, one of the easiest ways to get more leads is to consider generating content that expands the founder’s credibility and then use paid marketing. I also recommend PR in some cases.

The three most critical resources for most startups are time and money, followed by the availability of experienced help, and so decisions are to be made around those factors, no matter what.  You may read my next article, How to start marketing for a startup, which helps refine the advertising steps with process and results in mind. The article helps you define your audience for maximum budget impact, choose your ad channels, and thus define metrics on which one will be able to measure progress and success.