Having a marketing strategy is key for your startup or business in order to be able to reach your target audience. Finding the right users or customers for your startup should not be made randomly. You should define a marketing strategy for your startup because by knowing which marketing channels to use for the target you want to address to, will largely contribute to avoid startup failure and push you toward success.
Having a marketing strategy in place is vital at every stage of your business. Are you building a startup from scratch? Have you run a business for a long time? It doesn’t matter, you need to have a marketing plan!
But how to define a marketing strategy? Which marketing channels should you use? I am going to help you define your startup marketing strategy by giving you the minimum marketing strategy that I think every startup should have and this includes 11 steps.
Define Your Target
First of all, I want to say that I strongly recommend you to define your marketing strategy before launch. It should not be a long-term marketing plan but already knowing some elements is vital. Defining a target is definitely something you want to do before launch.
Try to make a profile of your buyer/user personas. Who would be your perfect user/customer? What is their age? Gender? Hobbies? Location? Profession? Behaviour? Knowing this will define your startup market positioning in order to guide your startup branding and set the tone of your message.
To create your user/buyer persona, there are 20 questions you should ask yourself when defining your marketing personas. “My startup doesn’t have a target, everyone could use our product.”
This is something I hear often. But, you should not think this way. Maybe my grandmother from France could use my product or a friend living in Taiwan but I am sure one of the two will be more interested in your product than the other.
Facebook has 1.7 Bn active users. So, we could say that their target is kind of everyone. But did they start like this? No. At first, their target was Harvard students. Then, they scale to other universities, teachers, then their target grew but they started small. Your target should be pretty accurate but you have to be ready to pivot in case your target changes.
By defining a target, you will also be able to position yourself according to your competitors.
Study Your Market And Competition
“My startup does not have competitors.”
Another statement that I hear often and this is an issue if you think that. Your startup always has competitors and if you don’t, you should be worried. Not having competitors prove that you either don’t know your market or worse you don’t even have a market.
Why is it good to have competitors? If there is competition, it means there is a market. Not being alone having a disruptive idea in a market is usually a good sign. Being the only one in a market is often not good for your startup success. Having competitors allow the market to be more popular and give visibility to the market and therefore your startup.
Knowing your competition is also a good sign for investors. If you are a startup looking to get funded, don’t tell a potential investor that you have no competition or no target. It’s important to show that you have identified all the players in your market. Saying to an investor that you have identified no one as a competitor is like saying: “No one knows about this market and no startup or business wants to enter it. Great, no?” The investor won’t believe you or won’t be interested.
You can also benefit from competitors by learning what works or doesn’t work, getting inspired by them or even starting a strategic alliance (I think we all know how business development is important for startups sustainability).
Use Your Network
It is very important to tell your friends, family, and ex-colleagues what you do. Try to find people in your entourage that might fit the target. Explain them and show them your product or idea. Tell them to be as honest as possible (People close to you might not tell you the truth to not hurt your feelings but it’s important to test your idea as early as possible).
Promote Your Website
I am guessing and I hope you have a website (If you don’t, make one quickly even if it isn’t perfect. It still needs to be nice and mobile responsive though, because your website is the vitrine of your startup). You don’t need to be an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) expert to submit your website to search engines. Your page title is important as well as your meta description, the keywords you use on your website and how your website looks on different browsers or shared on social media.
For a full SEO strategy, you need to surround yourself with the right people. However, you need to know that a SEO strategy is a long-term strategy. According to Forbes, it takes at least four months for a good SEO marketing strategy to start giving results. A complete SEO strategy should be implemented by experts, search engines take more than 200 factors to create their ranking; it can hardly be handled without experience.
So, if you start to work on SEO and don’t see much results after two or three months, please don’t stop working on it, be patient results come with time. SEO is for your startup to get sustainability but be aware that it won’t bring fast results. If you want faster results, a growth hacking strategy might fit better
Use Local Offline Marketing
Go to local events/trade shows. Another way to promote your website and your startup is by going to local events in your niche. Startups always think about Internet marketing but underuse offline marketing: when defining a marketing strategy for your startup, use offline marketing too. You can either go to startup events (I am sure you can find many around where you live) or go to trade shows related to your industry. You will be able to promote your startup as well as getting inspired by what others do and probably get some great insight and feedback.
This will help you to grow your existing network. Going to networking events or conferences where you will meet leaders or start-uppers in your industry is important to get connections, see what others do but also sharing your idea with people in your industry. You will quickly see if there is demand or a market or if you need to pivot.
Create A Landing Page
A landing page? This is a recurrent word in the startup world and I am sure you know what it is. The goal of a successful landing page is to create the teasing of your product and collect valuable leads. In order to get relevant and qualified leads (which you will be able to convert later), defining your user personas is important in order to address your message well.
Choose a compelling and short message to make people want to click on your offer. Your message should be understood easily by your visitors. Any time you create a new page, think about your SEO keywords. Your CTA (Call-to-Action) button should be clearly visible and placed in strategic locations. Your startup branding should also be present on the landing page: colours you use, your logo, your font, mantra.
Build Your Community On Social Media
Impossible to ignore social media today because this is a powerful tool for your startup visibility. Using social media is key to promote your content and startup. You don’t need to use all of them, focus your efforts on the ones where your target is most likely to interact (Again another point why knowing your user persona is important).
From here, with a website running well, a target, a landing page to get leads and social media, your startup should be ready to launch. If you don’t have those, I recommend delaying a bit your startup launch to put that in order.
Create A Blog
There is a saying: “Content is king.” I’d rather say “Quality Content is King.” If you address to your target’s audience well, a blog will increase your startup visibility and will be easy to communicate about your product. The evolution of content marketing showed us that we are at the time of blogging. If you don’t have a blog yet, start one now!
The biggest challenge comes with bringing users to your blog, keeping them interested, and making sure they share your blog. Blogging could really have a viral effect when used properly. This is why quality is king. In order for people to come back to your blog and share it with their community, you need to give them relevant content — content that they will like, find interesting, funny or shocking and that they will share. Your blog post could be a written post, a video, an infographic, e-books, an interview of one of your users, or a question that you answer.
You should make it easy for people to navigate through your blog and website. When having readers on your blog, you want to keep them in by for example showing your readers another of your blog posts they might be interested in. With a long-term content marketing strategy, you can significantly grow your startup revenue with a blog. For your blog to be a success, I recommend you to follow these 10 content marketing tactics for your startup blog.
Social Media Optimisation And Marketing
You should already be taking care of building your community on social media. This is another step involving social media because it goes further. Now, the goal will be to show your content to your community, promote your product, interact with your followers, answer their questions, etc. You don’t have to apply a very complicated social media strategy at first, an easy social media strategy for startups is enough to start with.
Email Marketing Strategy
I was surprised to see how many startups don’t use email marketing. This is the marketing channel with the highest ROI (Return-on-Investment).
This is so important that your startup creates an email marketing strategy. Emails give you the opportunity to personally talk to potential or existing customers. Thanks to emails, you will be able to know more about their needs and adapt your product or offer toward them. To convert leads, email marketing is vital. If you are a startup entrepreneur and you don’t have a marketing strategy in place, I recommend you to start working on it from today.
PR (Public Relations)
Best case scenario, you are able to get PR at your launch. This is great but not easy for most startups. I am going to give you a few tips to get published:
– Build a list: You should build a list of journalists or bloggers in your industry. You should have their name, their personal email, their LinkedIn and their Twitter handle.
– Create a press release: Your press release should be personalized to the people you contact, bring a compelling story about your startup, be creative…
– Completing the media kit: a press release is one thing, you also need to attach good quality logo and pictures and I also recommend to attach a FAQ form.
– Relationship building: you need to know that PR is relationship building. You can do PR with a first cold email but you could maybe send a “hello” email first or a tweet introducing yourself to be a bit more casual. I don’t recommend to send a media kit out of the blue. It’s better to build a relationship with journalists or bloggers.
– PR is short-term: it’s important to know that PR is usually a short-term strategy. It will bring you a boost but it’s not sustainable (I mean let’s be honest, if you get an article on Tech Crunch about your startup, you might not have a new one next month; not every startup is like Uber or AirBnb and get published every other day).
Don’t be shy!
Bloggers love to talk about startups. I see so many startups thinking they have no chance with PR, I can assure you, you do have a big opportunity here. Don’t be shy, I am sure they want to hear about your interesting concept or product. You have to understand that you are not selling your startup to bloggers, you are telling them a story. And this is what journalists and bloggers want: a great story. PR is not a 1 way deal. Of course, they are making you a favour if they publish you but you also make them a favour when showing them a compelling story.
A great advantage of PR is that if you already have all the other channels in place, your acquisition, conversion and overall growth will skyrocket, and this is why I don’t recommend to send a press release too early to journalists or bloggers.
What Did We Learn About Startup Marketing Strategy?
So, this was how to define a marketing strategy for your startup in 11 steps. We learned that it’s important to know your startup target by defining your user/buyer persona in order to address the right message to the right people. To promote your startup, I believe that any startup should at least have a marketing strategy with a website (Of course), an offline marketing strategy by going to local events related to your industry, a social media strategy and a content marketing campaign to get leads.
Then, an email marketing campaign is crucial to convert your leads. I added PR to this easy marketing strategy for startups because I strongly believe this marketing channel is underused by startups even though it has great potential. Combining inbound marketing with outbound marketing is definitely the way to go.
[This post by Jonathan Aufray first appeared on Growth Hackers and has been reproduced with permission.]