Where to start with startup marketing?

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One of the most fulfilling parts of working as a growth marketer in the startup industry is being able to witness the extreme growth that founders can achieve in short bursts of time and effort.

The curiosity that founders are able to apply to testing marketing tactics, messages and offers to various audiences and channels, is a creative and agile practice. A practice that can often be hampered by approval processes and rigid advertising guidelines in large corporates.

There are a lot of reasons not to cut corners with some of the less “sexy” sides of marketing like data and reporting. Getting it “right from the start” is a problem most founders face.

Borne out of countless questions fielded by perplexed founders, conversations on where to begin, and my own experience growing numbers for businesses from startups to large corporates, these are my top 4 must do’s for startup marketing.

1: Make data driven decisions from day one

Google Analytics for Startups

Data is awesome. Luckily most tech founders would tend to agree with this. However, a lot of decisions in the early days of a startup are made from gut instinct or less than quantifiable data.

“My (brother, mother, boyfriend, cousin’s sister’s former room-mate) says that everyone buys products like this on Snapchat!” – Opinions are like armpits…

The data to make decisions IS available. Founders just need to ensure they are tracking it. These are 4 (free) easy efforts to start collecting data and information.

A: Install Google Analytics

  • It’s free, it’s powerful, and it’s not retrospective, setting it up (even if there is only a landing page) is one of the best ways to ensure access to a goldmine of data later. Especially for tackling SEO down the track.

B: Set up a mailing list

  • Mailchimp is free (to a point). Getting subscribers can be as simple as putting a link into an email signature, or putting a box on a website. If people have a reason to subscribe from day one, there is a potentially great list for feedback gathering later.

C: Setup alerts for competitors

  • Setup a Google Alert for competitor brands, their CEO name, their specific product name. Setup more for the product and industry specific keywords. Chuck all this in a spreadsheet, or file the alert in an email folder. Refining a unique value proposition or achieving differentiation will be easier with this information later.

D: Track (sales) communication

  • Setup a mailtracker (there’s free extensions for Gmail), or start spreadsheeting outreach, If the communication is sales based and there isn’t budget for a CRM, Google Sheets or good old Excel are pals.

It’s the “stitch in time, saves nine” philosophy. We may not have the time or inclination to dive into the data or the info now, but having it at fingertips when it’s needed will be a godsend.

2: Nail the branding (especially voice) from the start

Branding for Startup Marketing

  • How does the brand sound?
  • If the brand was a person, what would they look like?
  • What would they like to do on the weekend?
  • Is there anyone out there (celebrity) that would personify the brand?
  • Is there one that absolutely wouldn’t?

These are all questions that are answered when brand consideration, especially from a customer and tone of voice point of view is done.

A brand gives meaning to a business. It’s what people think of when they hear a product name. It goes beyond a logo and brand colours. Especially considering that many brands are going to represent themselves online to the world on social media, founders should know how the brand is going to sound.

Really nailing our brand voice and making sure we keep things authentic is going to be so important! We don’t need to complicate things! The more we write and interact with our users, the easier it will become. It’s all about practice” – Josh Denutte, founder of Spark Dates.

There are heaps of guides online for helping to develop a brand voice. This is a particularly straightforward and useful tool developed by The Content Marketing Institute.

3: Set short, mid and long term goals

Setting startup marketing goals

Sure… we could develop a 6 or 12 month marketing plan for the company. Daring to dream is an important part of being a startup founder. However, what we really mean here is, what marketing goal is achievable this week? Or next fortnight? Or in a month.

Are we going to blog once a week for 12 weeks? Or Are we going to post on Twitter once a day for four days? Setting small and achievable marketing goals that can be measured, tested and iterated on, means a greater likelihood of regular effort and potential for success.

Ensure whatever efforts are decided on align with the most pressing business goal. There’s not much point building a 30K strong instagram following if the key business metric is getting businesses to login and give feedback on a peer-to-peer trucking communication portal.  

4: Know when to outsource, know when to hire

Internet experts in Startup Marketing

It’s true that as a founder, you need to know “enough about enough” until you’re at a stage to hire people who know more. Getting an understanding of everything from search engine optimisation to social media is important so that undertaking initial marketing pushes can be done internally. There comes a time when delegation is necessary.

A lot of founders I speak with mention that they are terrible writers. Whilst I call bulls**t on the “I can’t write” excuse (and have even written about it here), it is understandable that at some point a website may need the eye of someone other than the founder. Or there isn’t  time to personally post on social media regularly, or no one in the business has any idea on how to get to the first page of Google.  

“Good founders know when it’s time to seek help. Great founders have already started trying to hire the people to help them achieve growth.” – Me

One of the biggest failures a founder can have is not recognising when organic growth caps out and hiring someone to assist the “up and to the right” path.

Growth marketing, growth hacking, startup marketing or whatever we want to call it can be a fun and exploratory process, where every test, iteration land optimisation is meant to lead to growth, be it customers, following, subscribers… whatever the current metric or goal is.

Go, be curious and have fun with it!