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Four top tips for marketing start-ups

Starting a business can be frenetic. You don't know what you don't know, everything is a huge learning curve and you are most likely strapped for resources.


When it comes to marketing your start-up or new business, it can feel overwhelming - knowing what to do, where to do it and what to reasonably expect in terms of results.


Here are a few things you can do to help, rather than hinder your growth.


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Before we get onto the tips, let's just examine what marketing is for a moment shall we?


The American Marketing Association defines it as:


"Marketing is the activity, set of institutions and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large."

Or as P Kotler put more simply 'meeting needs in a profitable way'.

Meeting needs in a profitable way. It is important to remember this as it helps you make some decisions about what you are going to do and how you are going to do it - do a little planning first before you execute. Strategy first, then tactics.



1. Talk. To. Your. Customers.


Please. Talk to your customers. And your potential customers too.


It is dangerous to base your marketing strategy on what you *think* or on your experience. you are not the customer! Even if you started your business off the back of personal experience, you will find that everyone does not have the same frame of reference as you.


Ask them questions at every opportunity. Ask them about what they do, how they behave, where they buy, what they would buy if it wasn't your product or service. Ask, ask, ask. Do your research, get to know their wants, needs, frustrations, alternatives! Their feedback will refine your messaging and maybe even uncover some gem of insight.


Chances are your product or service is not unique. Speaking to your customers will help you find where your strength and value is to them.



2. Define your position.


Talked to your customers? Excellent. If you haven't, stop reading and go back.


Now you have talked to your customer you should be able to define:


πŸ‘‰ who they are

πŸ‘‰ what they think

πŸ‘‰ how they behave

πŸ‘‰ what turns them on

πŸ‘‰ what frustrates them

You should also know who or what are you up against:

❓ direct competitors?

❓ substitutes

❓ alternatives


Finally, and crucially - can your product or service deliver?


There is zero point in making grandiose claims is you are not in a place to back it up, this will put your customers off - unless they are Elf...



The marketing world calls this the three C's analysis. What you're trying to do is find a 'position' that includes a promise to the Customer, that differentiates from Competitors, that you (your Company) can actually deliver.


Got that nailed? OK. Next.



3. Set your budget.


We mentioned earlier that resource can be a problem. Time or money both boil down to the same thing, and even if you've raised funding or investment in your start-up, you're still going to need to know how best to invest that time and money.


Unless you have unlimited resource you cannot be everywhere, sell everything, to everyone. Hopefully, having done steps 1 & 2 you've narrowed the playing field a bit. Now is the time to crunch those numbers.


Know your metrics for success, what turnover do you need and how much you can spend to get customers? Initially cash flow will be important (when is it not?!) so you'll want to be

always acquiring customers, but you’ll need to consider adding some brand marketing / awareness activities to the mix too. Spend as much as you can afford on long term brand building whist still focusing on short term sales.


Be clear on what you have to spend to achieve your goals, where you will spend it, what you NEED to return & get creative. You don't need to have an enormous budget to do something a little different - take Thursday for example. Only being active on one day a week means they stand out, and can keep costs down!




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4. If at first you don't succeed...


What I mean by this is the old adage - 'don't let the best be the enemy of the good'. 'Done is better than perfect' etc.


Don't let the pursuit of perfection result in paralysis. It's so much easier to iterate on something, test and learn, test and learn - that's the best way to progress. As you start out a business you can (and should) research, learn, theorise, but eventually you're going to have to make some sales or you're going to have no money. No profit = an expensive hobby!


You are only going to be able to confirm your position by testing it. This doesn’t have to be long winded, complicated or costly. Use Google forms to run surveys (or speak to people as per point 1) and use free insights like YouGov. Sense check your ideas and then run with them.


To help you with this build in feedback loops - points where you can review and gather feedback on a regular basis. If it is part of your process, you're more likely to do it, and it is is more likely to be helpful - if I ask you for feedback on an overnight hotel stay the day after or 3 months later, which will be more accurate?


Finally - pace of life in the start-up world can be FAST. Yes, do your research, yes, set a strategy, but view it as work in progress.


Remember, most brands are not instant overnight successes, despite what the insta-influencers tell you. It can take around 5 years before a brand can really establish itself in the marketplace - you have time!


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There are of course a whole HEAP more bits of information that could be useful, but these should help. Remember to:


  • Understand - know your hook, grab attention, nail your position.


  • Plan - work out how you are going to milk every opportunity to build trust, awareness and engagement.


  • Build - focus on conversion and return on your activities - decide what you need to establish and maintain those relationships.


  • Test - know your metrics, test, measure - validate what you're doing.


  • Refine - use what you learn to concentrate on your smallest viable market, and expand from there.


Good luck!


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