Building a great startup product is rarely enough. Marketing it is equally important. Doing it correctly, however, is a tough ask for two major reasons:
First, you rarely have a substantial marketing budget, if any. This is especially true in the very early stages of your startup when you need to validate your idea and get initial traction before being able to fundraise. Because of this, investing in both depth and scope is simply impossible because your time and capital are limited.
Second, in the idea generation and validation phases of your startup, you wouldn’t know if you have a product-market fit yet. Because of this, you cannot be sure if people genuinely need what you are offering them, and equally problematically for a marketing person: you cannot be sure which marketing channel will yield the best results.
Consequently, it’s required that you tailor your startup marketing approach to your exact situation.
1. Step 1: Scope
Since your first problem is that you don’t know where to find your first customers (also known as your minimum viable segment), you need to figure a strategy out that helps you discover them.
Investing deeply into a single marketing channel or a single market isn’t likely to help you with that problem. Since you need to test your offering against different kinds of people, it’s best to run multiple (cheap) marketing experiments in different places.
Cold call different types of businesses. Post about your idea/product on internet forums and communities (Facebook groups, subreddits, etc.) related to your industry. Run differently-targeted PPC campaigns on Facebook or Google and test different demographics, interest groups, and keywords.
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The goal of these experiments isn’t to grow your business, but rather to find which consumer segments respond best to your offering.
2. Step 2: Depth
Once you have found the market niche which responds best to your offering, it’s time to narrow down and at the same time double down your efforts.
The goal changes from discovery, to efficiency and growth. You are no longer trying to experiment with different segments, your new objective is to minimize customer acquisition costs while maximizing growth.
Since you are still limited by resources, the best way to achieve this is to choose the most efficient channel for your business and to become an expert in it, ideally – the best in your niche.
E.g. if the most important channel for your business is Facebook ad campaigns, then it would be a great idea to make sure you have the best ad creatives in your niche combined with good targeting. Doing this takes a lot of effort, and it is unlikely that you would be able to achieve this goal while at the same time running an effective SEO + content marketing strategy, etc.
3. Step 3: Depth & Scope
Once your startup grows into a sizeable business, resources would be less of an issue. Moreover, you might be aiming to enter additional market niches and to diversify your offering.
This usually calls for reintroducing a wider scope into your marketing strategy, and thankfully your newly-found access to resources would help you do so without losing the depth and quality of your marketing efforts that you were able to develop in the previous step.
This is best achieved by growing your startup team and hiring channel experts to deal with the increased workload without a reduction in quality.
Marketing your startup successfully can be a challenge, but it isn’t an insurmountable one if you create a marketing strategy that fits your needs. Since the needs of your business change as it grows and gets through the different startup stages, it makes sense that your marketing strategy would also change with time.
- In the idea and validation phases, use a broad scope of marketing channels to find your ideal customers.
- In the efficiency phase, narrow down on the most efficient marketing channel for your business and become the best in the field at it.
- In the growth phase, invest the resources you have to broaden your efforts once again without sacrificing scope.