Here’s a typical startup marketing story: Founders launch product. Initial buzz wears off. With the sound of crickets and rolling tumbleweeds in the background, founders realise that they need customers to grow. They test a few channels, conclude that everything is too expensive and nothing works, and try to hire a growth hacker in frustration. Sounds familiar? You’re not alone. In this post, I will bust three common startup marketing myths and show you how to tackle them. Read on.
Build it and they will come
Modern advertising evolved out of a need to differentiate and sell products in a world of increased competition as a result of the industrial revolution. With the evolution of no-code tools and the creator economy, a similar trend is taking place in tech. In 2006, if you wanted to send promotional emails, your main options were Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor. In 2021, you have at least 15.
Having a great product or experience is only half the battle and increasingly becoming table stakes. Getting people to care about your product is the other and increasingly the more important half. Founders often postpone thinking about who the product is for and why they should pay attention until it’s too late, at which point they scramble to get “users” or “sales”, which brings us to the second myth:
Marketing strategy is finding the cheapest acquisition channel. Probably Facebook.
Throwing things at a wall and seeing what sticks is great when cooking spaghetti, not so much when thinking about the future of your business. There’s a time for scientific experimentation and testing out creative ideas, but it should be complimentary, not a substitute to a well-defined marketing strategy.
A great marketing strategy clearly defines who the customer is (and no, millennials or working moms don’t count) and provides a compelling reason why your product is truly better than the alternatives. It serves as the foundation for growth and sets the guardrails for creative experimentation. It helps you know where to focus on when it comes to tactical execution. It helps you avoid wasting time and money on second-guessing your target audience or your value proposition.
Marketing is best left to marketers
Reverse engineering marketing using code is a strong value proposition, especially with founders from tech backgrounds. However, humans are messy and complex and usually don’t respond well to tricks and manipulation.
Outsourcing your entire marketing to a growth hacker will likely result in short term results but will most certainly do more damage to your brand in the long term. As a founder, it is your responsibility to articulate your vision, define the marketing strategy and set the guardrails for experimentation for success in the long term. Only after having done your homework you can reap the benefits of getting help from experts.
A growth guide for founders
Marketing is not an add-on to your product development and not a necessary evil that you have to deal with. It is the glue that binds product development, distribution, communication and pricing, aligning it with customer needs.
Pay attention to these three points to grow your business profitably and sustainably:
- Do your research. Marketing starts with research on day one, long before you have a product in the market. Talk to potential customers and look for insights. Pay attention to the real reasons that drive their behaviour. Figure out how deeply they care about the problem you are solving, what they consider to be the alternatives are and eventually, how much they are willing to spend to solve it.
- Define your strategy. At its core, strategy is defining who your customer is and how you’re going to win them over. Strategy is about making a choice, and every choice comes with sacrifice. The sharper you can define your target customer and the tighter your value proposition is, the higher your chance of success.
- Execute well. Tactical execution is the collection of many small decisions, from where you sell your products to how you price them, from deciding which features to build and how to communicate them. Let your strategy guide your tactical choices and execute them well. Do everything yourself in the early days and you will soon have a clear idea where you need help.
Taking the time to do research and develop a clear marketing strategy sounds like a lot of work, but it is a small investment that pays big dividends. It saves time and helps you avoid costly mistakes later on. It will serve as a light to guide you to profitable and sustainable growth, while others are trying to find their way to success in the dark land of tactics and hacks .