In the first twelve to eighteen months of starting up the team is lean, time is short and the to-do list never ending, yet the focus needs to be on gaining traction to prove the model. So what are the best marketing activities to focus on to do that during this time? It’s easy to get sucked into trying every idea and opportunity that comes your way, but that just saps even more time, so here are my top tips rounded up from years of working with start-up brands on their marketing, and from doing it ourselves launching and growing both tech ventures I’ve co-founded Brand Gathering and Openr:
Put your customer at the centre of your world
Without customers, you don’t have a business, so make them the centre of your world. They are the only worthwhile opinion when it comes to product, pricing, positioning, promotion – in fact everything in your business. Thinking from their perspective will tell you what features to prioritise; how to describe your business; where to sell it; even where to market it. So build a really concrete idea of who your stereotypical customer is – create a picture of their lives and their needs. Don’t fall into the trap of targeting any customer, you must zero in on the target segment that will be most likely to try your product now, in the early stages. Stay focused on this core group, embed this focus across your whole team, and you can create a product, a brand and a business that they truly love – and in the early days, more than any, you need people to love you or hate you – nothing in between.
Get the basics right – work and rework a clear and simple proposition
The harsh truth is that if your customer doesn’t understand what you do within twenty seconds then you’ve lost a sale. Yet the single biggest barrier to start-up success remains the lack of clear proposition. The trick is to focus on doing one thing really well. A lot of companies (big and small!) try to explain too much, and as a result propositions become diluted and misunderstood. Sure you might be a one-stop shop but a jack of all trades is a master of none, so get clear on the one big thing you do, and become known for that. Don’t be afraid to work on it over time too. We tested different versions with customers over time, refined it and tested again. It might mean changing the line on your website a few times, but crack it and not only will you win that sale, but you also make it easier for customers to refer you to others too.
Make every experience a great one (even if it doesn’t scale)
Marketing is not the job of the marketing department. Perhaps that’s a funny thing to say for someone whose career has revolved around leading marketing teams with multi-million pound budgets, but it’s true. Marketing is everything that touches your customer – which means you want to make every touch point – website; social; the sales team; your customer service – leave a lasting positive impression. The automated emails of printing company Moo are a great source of inspiration here – they could be a boring automated email, but instead they comes from their ‘Little Moo print robot’ and leave a lasting impression. Offering surprisingly good customer service also makes you stand out, and right now you’re agile enough to offer the flexibility and personalised responses that make you really stand out from the crowd. So make the most of it and build the brand love one customer at a time.
Nurture your community – they’re your biggest fans
It is easy to obsess over gaining new customers, but one of the most effective activities for Openr has been nurturing the ones we had – so much so that it is now baked into the foundations of what we do and our content-marketing depends on it. No-one wants a one-time only purchase – repeat sales is where the true value lies – but achieving that means making your product really work at every stage. Often that means understanding where they get stuck and how you can help. Early on we spent a lot of time testing different ways from time-and-action triggered email, to webinars to how-to guides. Getting those foundations set means you have an active customer community that you can have fun with. Now we regularly have interviews, features and guest blogs from those in our community – which fuels our content marketing efforts – all because we helped make Openr a habitual tool and created a sense of community around the product.
Never miss a chance to generate your next sale
Once you have an engaged customer base you have the opportunity to encourage referrals, and there’s nothing quite like giving them an incentive to do so. It is healthy snack company Graze that paved the way with this referral marketing, adding unique codes to their boxes giving customers’ friends a free box, with a £1 reward for them too. Get creative with how you incentivize your customers – and test different options with real customers. Try offering rewards or additional perks in return for tweets or facebook posts, or referrals – just make sure you make it all easily trackable.
Get all collaborative
Perhaps the single biggest factor in the growth of Openr has been partnerships. We are all so quick to think about PR that will reach the new customers you want to speak to – but the reality is there are events, websites and brands that have them too, and you could be partnering up with them. We’ve done give-aways, competitions, content swaps, co-promotions, event sponsorship, and special offers as part of collaborative partnerships with complementary brands. Simply work out what assets you can offer to a partner or event-partner, and what you’d like in return, and seek out the right brand for your target customer to start a conversation.
Interested in coming to a talk or workshop with Christina? Find out more here