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Early Growth
September 10, 2015

What does it take to build a winning startup marketing program? Peter Mansfield, Founder of Mansfield + Associates, discussed the nuts and bolts on our Marketing for Startups: Building a Killer Marketing Program webinar.


#1 — Know what traits and expertise a startup marketer should have

The best startup marketers are pragmatic risk takers. They also need to be creative, relentless, disciplined in setting priorities, defining processes, and following up on ideas; and they also need to be collaborative and balanced. A pretty tall order, huh?

Most startups are in good shape when it comes to setting vision and strategy, but many fall down when it comes to the nuts and bolts of setting tactics, getting organized, and executing.

Here are some tips and strategies to put an effective plan in place:

  • Spend time upfront to think through and find the right toolset and collaboration tools to use
  • Set up an asset library with shared access so you don’t waste time trying to find marketing assets such as logos for example.
  • Review every customer as well as targeting every audience touchpoint.
  • Don’t rely solely on in-house branding; monitor what people think of your brand. Use outside consultants if you need to, but regularly test the effectiveness of your strategy and monitor what your audience is thinking.

#2 — Don’t think that startup branding equates to simply having a cool logo

Branding is a tool to drive user acquisition. To build your brand, you need to know who your customers are down to the level of their age, gender, and geographic breakdown plus their education and political leanings as well as what motivates them.

Define and analyze your sales funnel from start to finish looking at the lifecycle of your company’s sales from prospect to customers. These are the questions you need to ask to analyze how well your sales funnel is working:

Acquisition — How do users find you?
Activation — Do they have a great experience?
Retention — Do they come back?
Revenue — How do you make money?
Referrals — Do users tell others about your company?

For good commentary on what distinguishes top brands, watch Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle Ted Talk.

#3 — Don’t try to be everywhere at once: why it’s not realistic to embrace every single marketing strategy!

First, it’s impossible. Your goal and what is critical for your startup is repeat usage. Test every activity you put in place as well as every dollar you spend. And put a good backend system in place (CRM, salesforce automation tools). Salesforce and ProsperWorks are good systems.

Keep in mind that your business’ target audience and your company lifecycle will impact your marketing decisions and strategies. Test and iterate. KISSmetrics and HubSpot are good resources for testing your funnel and researching useful analytics.

Marketing tactics and tools:

  • PR and content marketing are good tools because they force you to think about your readers and to put yourself in their shoes and because they are effective across multiple audience types.
  • Partner development tends to be overlooked in marketing strategy, but it can help in identifying customers.
  • Channel/affiliate partners are another potential source: and they may be able to give you access to a large number of potential users.
  • Content syndication, conferences, events, and webinars are all important parts of building a maintaining brand presence—to drive leads.

When you’re looking at partners your criteria should include similar user bases, their track record of partnership deals, and (looking ahead to your exit strategy) their potential to be an acquirer of your business.

Your work is not done once you sign a deal though. You need to optimize your partnership by understanding how your partner works. You should also leverage their existing internal and external communication channels. Lastly, it’s a two-way street: give them reasons to stay engaged.

#4 — Open your eyes: how to really see — and understand — your target audience

Living and running your business in one of the major startup markets can be like living in a bubble. Keep in mind that tech community customers are very different from typical mainstream U.S. customers. Know who you’re marketing to and tailor your approaches accordingly.

Balance your branding efforts between user and customer acquisition, partner development, and industry leadership. The relative weight you devote to each of the four will depend on which markets your company is focused on.

Guerilla marketing

If like most startups, you are short on resources and time, you can still use guerilla marketing tactics to test what works.

  • Join relevant groups on LinkedIn and get involved in discussions
  • Employ a targeted approach to Adwords
  • Learn from peers when and where you can

Marketing is definitely not a case of build a great product and customers will come running. You should be planning for, testing, learning from, and refining your efforts from the earliest days of your startup.

What’s your best startup marketing tip? Share your advice in the comments section below or contact Early Growth Financial Services for a free 30-minute financial consultation.

Deborah Adeyanju is Content Strategist & Social Media Manager at Early Growth Financial Services (EGFS), an outsourced financial services firm that provides small to mid-sized companies with day-to-day accounting, strategic finance, CFO, tax, and valuation services and support. Prior to joining EGFS, Deborah spent more than a decade as an investment analyst and portfolio manager with leading financial institutions in New York, London, and Paris. Deborah is also a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charterholder.

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Early Growth
September 10, 2015