Marketing strategy for startups

Every startup aspires to make it big someday; with odds of success being very low, they try to do their best in a demanding business, economic and competitive environment. One of the key factors which significantly contributes to the future success of a venture is the focus and importance given to marketing. This blog discusses Marketing strategy for startups that can help them scale new heights of success.

Whether it’s a technology start-up, healthcare, financial services, specialty boutique retail, restaurant, communication, logistics, non-profit, online or social media startup, the leadership team must count on marketing as a key value creator in its sustainability, on par with the core fundamental that drives the venture.

Regardless of whether the venture targets enterprises or retail customers, founders and CEOs will increasingly depend on marketing to create the much needed visibility, generate leads, engagement opportunity and to create the brand they aspire. Further, marketing is critical to reach the next level of growth to be able to seek future funding towards expanding operations, product development and geographical expansions or R&D investment etc.

In this blog, I have outlined the key strategy and action plan startups can adopt selectively to be able to structure and build their marketing organization. CEOs and marketing leaders must contextualize the plan in line with their vision and budget to make it fit the best to their business requirements.

1. Build a balanced marketing team

The key to sustained success is having a balanced team of experienced marketing specialists.

  • A senior marketing leader who can create the strategy and take-off by optimizing the resources; in line with the vision and goals of the firm.
  • A team of middle level digital marketing specialists to focus on implementation.
  • A team of content editors and documentation specialists.
  • Web designers and DTP specialists with hands on experience in using leading designing software and tools.
2. Have a engaging website
  • Talk about why you exist, your value proposition, your offerings, your team, contact details, news and press stuff and all those details you would essentially want to share.
  • Dare to be different with the website. Be bold, creative but try to keep it simple and uncluttered.
  • Use the latest web technology and design best practices to give your customers a great user experience they visit your website (and to ensure repeat visits).
3. Be social media ready
4. Be SEO ready
  • Produce content that is being searched by your customers and optimize your website with keywords and tags to make it SEO friendly.
  • Grow your page ranking organically with on-page optimization.
  • Use most searched keywords in your titles, subtitles, captions, body copy etc.
  • Use relevant HTML tags to make your company pages visible to search engine crawlers or spiders as you may call it.
  • At an advanced stage, use affiliate marketing programs or paid listing strategies such as Pay-per-click (PPC). Read my blog on affiliate marketing programs for more details.
5. Have a sound content production engine
  • Faster and relevant content is critical for the success of marketing efforts. Apart from website content, there is blogs, videos, interactive tutorials, white papers, social media content, and much more to work on.
  • To produce high quality content to match the new digital order, hire and nurture content specialists / skilled resources to produce video, write scripts, and produce high quality contents with quick turnaround.
6. Focus on thought leadership
  • Have a blog:  
    • Blogs can be sourced from the Leadership, go-to-market and SMEs because they know and understand the customer better them anyone else.
    • Video blogs are a great idea to swiftly communicate and connect with target audience
    • Commenting on external blogs further helps to enhance visibility in the community
  • Whitepapers:
    • Create whitepapers around your core competency and offerings. There is never enough whitepaper to have, therefore, produce relevant content as much possible to enhance engagement with the customers.
  • Webinars:
    • Webinars help to attract interested groups to view and listen to your thoughts.
    • If you do not have great webinar capability, partner with influential industry specialists, strategic partners to target and source the audience.
    • You could also look at third party vendors to help you prepare and organize high quality webinars.
    • To learn more about how to thought leadership can benefit an enterprise, read my blog on Leveraging thought leadership to stimulate marketing and sales
7. Subscribe to a marketing database
  • Subscribe a database that is suitable for your business. Use a clean database for your email marketing and cold calling campaigns.
  • Set-up a sales support team to manage your in-house database, track leads and contacts, improve marketing and sales outreach campaigns by constantly updating the database.
 8. Have a CRM system
  • Talking about database, leads, contacts and campaigns, one would need a suitable CRM system in place to manage and automate process for higher efficiency.
  • Use the features of the CRM system to integrate sales and marketing campaigns to your sales and marketing goals, measure performance and improve the process with CRM reports.
9. Mandatory subscriptions
  • Web analytics / Inbound lead tracker – To know who is really visiting your website you need a suitable web analytics tool. These tools will help to protect and maximize your ROI on your website investment, email campaigns, social media campaigns and other marketing automation efforts.
  • Web analytics tools – there are a plenty of web analytics tools. Google analytics is the most widely used tool and is free of cost. For startup ventures, I would recommend Google analytics unless you have genuine requirement and appetite to go for any other high end tool. Read comparison of top web analytics tools here.
  • Email marketing tool – there are a quite a number of advanced email marketing tool available to choose for mass email campaigns. These tools not only help you design you campaigns but also help you with vital post campaign statistics. Read comparison of top email marketing tools here.
10. Participate in industry survey
  • Leading consulting and research firms come up with surveys that list emerging trends, top players and future outlooks. Participate in such surveys to get visibility in your space and to know where you stand versus the competition.
  • Benefit – There is nothing like being endorsed by a leading third party research firm. Your customers, channel partners and suppliers carefully follow surveys and rankings in their decision making process. As these survey reports hugely alter customer preference and the competitive landscape, it’s advisable to take early advantage of this option.
11. Invest in third party market research / sponsored research (Jointly with top research, advisory and consulting firms) 
  • In addition to participating in third party surveys, sponsor a survey with a chosen third party in your own accord.
  • This helps co-branding, helps you ride on the distribution channel of the affiliate third party and helps you get the desired exclusivity. You know best who to choose!
12. Organize events
  • Why events?
    • Ideal platform to showcase innovation, ideas, products and platforms.
    • Brings together subject matter experts, industry practitioners, sellers and customers under one roof.
    • Provides selling, business development, branding, networking and partnership opportunity.
  • Events could be of various types depending on what suits your customers and what you wish to accomplish.
  • Here’s a list of event types
    • Breakfast events – These are short 2 hour events with a small group essentially ranging between 20 – 40 attendees. This format has a set agenda with ideally 2 speakers and networking opportunity. Ideal event format for sales, business development and networking.
    • Cocktail events – Formal / Informal event with +25 attendees with no formal agenda. Ideal for branding and networking.
    • Workshops and Seminars – These could be half / full day event aimed at high degree of interaction primarily around a defined topic (problem area) aiming at finding a solution involving subject matter experts and practitioners.
    • Conference – This is the most exhaustive event format which sees large scale participation and is generally spread across multiple days.  This format requires huge effort in terms of ideation, investment, preparation and execution.
13. Industry events (Participate and/ or sponsor)
  • Industry events attract providers (sellers), customers, affiliates, Influencers, competitors and almost everyone operating in your ecosystem.
  • To participate in reputed industry events would need substantial investment in terms of participation fee and other fees related to opportunities for branding and promotion.
  • This is a huge topic to cover in few bullets; I will discuss this in a separate blog.

Well, now that you know the activities, you could embark on the planning and implementation; however, It will be prudent for the CEOs and marketing leaders to do a fundamental appraisal of the firm’s growth strategy to maximize the ROI on marketing spend.

Please add to the list above to make it better for the readers. I am glad to discuss any specific point in detail if it helps. Leave a comment or like the post if you found it useful.

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