Marketing typically isn’t the first full-time function added to a core start-up team. But you can’t afford to ignore it.
I am writing a blog series that helps the marketing-less temporarily fill in the gap. Yes, temporarily, because no company can thrive over time without a sound marketing function – even if it goes by some other name. This particular blog series will be geared towards small businesses and startups. What’s the difference? These days Startups offer some kind of technology or a product that relies on technology. Startups are designed to grow fast. Small businesses are more traditional and are tasked with identifying a market segment and serving it very well. Both business types typically lack the marketing and business development in-house expertise. So for the sake of this article, I will use the word Startup in a general sense to include Small Businesses.
I found a variety of resources to enable small executive teams to carry out critical marketing functions in a way that protects their time and investment until they are ready to hire a Marketing executive. Not to mention, I’ve worked with and for small businesses for a little more than 10 years and I’ve found some common themes regardless of the company, product or industry. So in this blog series I will discuss 9 Points to Brilliant Marketing for Startups. The 9 Points include:
1. Begin with an end in mind. Define your end goal.
2. Maintain a consistent brand and message – even when you get tired of it.
3. Know your audience. Dissect their needs.
4. Partner with the right marketing channels.
5. Exceed your customers’ expectations, then build a referral network.
6. Cultivate relationships with influencers.
7. Create content that appeals to people’s emotions.
8. Assemble the right team. Build an attractive, but healthy, culture.
9. Grow. Iterate. Repeat.
Companies in the startup stage are vulnerable to a wide range of threats. According to a Forbes article titled, “Top Reasons Startups Fail”, the #1 reason businesses fail is because……wait for it……there is no clear market need. This reason was so popular it accounted for nearly half of those surveyed. Only 29% reported failure due to funding. This reason was consistent with other polls including SEO Brian’s How, not just Why, Startups Fail, Hacker Noon’s Why do startups fail? A postmortem of 256 failed startups, and Domonika Stuppa’s 20 Reasons Startups Fail. In a nutshell, most companies fail because they have the “build it and they will come” mentality. They thought their product was the coolest thing ever, or felt they were revolutionary because no existing company is offering the same. Let’s assume for a second, the assumptions are correct. The product is, in fact, cool. And no one else is offering it. But that doesn’t mean they have a product/service that people are willing to pay for, and if so how much? They didn’t validate a market need. Now please understand, I am empathetic to startups who are dealing with substantial risk and uncertainty while focusing on building a corporate infrastructure and getting a viable product out the door. I get it. But it saddens me when I think of the blood, sweat and tears that will be wasted because their investment wasn’t protected with a marketing function that is looking around every corner looking for any potential threats, and opportunities.
So, if I were to drink my own champagne and Begin with the End in Mind, I would describe the goal of this series is to make sure all readers acknowledge the importance of keeping your finger on the pulse of an ever-changing market. Easier said than done, I know. But I will share processes, role descriptions and technology options that can make this critical step much more manageable. Each of the 9 Points discussed in this blog series will be tied to Market Need Identification. This will help to ensure you are focused on it continually.
2MuchCoffee.Com offered an infographic that outlines Lessons We Learned From Startup Fails. As one would expect, the lessons listed can be mapped to the pitfalls mentioned previously. But the author has simplified the lessons into 4 categories: Business Model, Customer, Product and Team.
Be sure to check out the next blog installment that will focus on the 1st Point “Begin with an end in mind. Define your end goal.”
The guidance provided will save you a lot of headache when you are working on projects with your team as well as when you bring marketing inhouse. This will help you avoid accepting those flaky goals often reported by traditional marketers like # of Likes, or # of Opens. You want to focus on defining goals that actually move the needle for your business.
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A Little About the Author
Nikki Porter is owner of SMarketingATL, a premiere marketing consulting and execution agency based in Atlanta. Nikki has over 2 decades of experience marketing highly technical products using non-traditional marketing programs. She has contributed millions of dollars to sales pipelines for US and Global teams. She has extensive experience marketing to highly regulated industries including healthcare, banking and utilities. She has also worked in the mobile development and training industries.
Nikki began her career as a marketing generalist responsible for campaigns, conferences and events, channel and partner managing, advertising, PR and content management. She has also had leadership roles reporting directly to the CEO and mentoring a top performing team and external contractors. Over time, her role became more focused on client success when she took on a role of Global Customer Advocacy and Insights for SAI Global. In this role, she established and managed the Client Advisory Board (CAB) and launched an award-winning customer advocacy platform that revolutionized sales processes and client engagement. Her marketing mantra is ‘start with the customer, then work backwards’.
Nikki earned a BS in Marketing from Alabama State University and earned an MBA from University of South Alabama. She received a Six Sigma – Green Belt certification as well as certifications related to Net Promoter Score (NPS2) and Account Based Marketing. She has served on several boards including Mission 4 Movement, Dance Arts Centre BC and GA Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) where she was awarded the Sister Rose Most Valuable Member Award.