Summary: Starting a new business takes vision, guts and passion. It also takes careful consideration about how best to market it, given the tight budgets you are probably working with. Here our Agile Rose’s top tips on marketing your Start Up.
‘Shoe swap’ with your customers
As you start up, create a minimal viable product and are hungry to launch, remember to spend the time looking at the solution you’re developing through the eyes of your customers – who are they? What problem will it solve for them? What are they doing currently to address this problem? What other choices do they have? You’re going to ask people to change, to buy your solution, so you need to become an expert on the issues they face.
So it’s important to refine your vision with their feedback.
Everyone will want this!
We’ve consulted with several start ups who, when we ask who their target market is, reply, with great enthusiasm, that ‘everyone will want one, in every country!’ Enthusiasm is important, but it’s vital to put the foundations under your vision.
You need to therefore map out your prospects into different segments, and target them in stages, potentially with tailored messaging, as these days a ‘one size fits all’ approach is less likely to resonate.
Unless your start up is creating something brand new to the world, like an iPhone or Airbnb, then chances are there are established competitors offering something similar.
So study them – how many customers do they have? How long did it take them to grow? What do they do well? What could be improved? Read interviews with their founders and seek ways to avoid making similar mistakes.
And remember that Facebook started in several US colleges, before rolling out to become the market leader of today.
From the answers to the above questions you will start to create a sense of how you can differentiate. Without differentiation, customers will find it hard to choose between your solution and your competitors, and will start to rely on price to do so. This leads to price wars, such as we see for services such as broadband low-cost airlines.
Determine what will differentiate your solution (eg quality, functionality, range etc) and ensure that is concisely communicated in all of your marketing.
This filters into your Elevator Pitch, the snappy solution introduction that you can articulate in 30-40 seconds. It needs to include; who you are, what problem you solve and for whom, how you do it and what makes you different from your competitors. Write it down, practice it on friends and it will quickly tighten up.
Create a Marketing Plan – but stay agile
You need to create a wider business plan and have a Marketing Plan with constituent tactics in there. The days of long range planning are receding in favour of agility, and being able to reboot a solution based on customer demand and other factors such as new technologies. (We will address how to best to create a Marketing Plan in a following paper).
Manage your inbound filters
There are thousands of pieces on information coming through an ever increasing range of channels such as the online, social media, Apps, newspapers and magazines. It is tempting to buy stacks of magazines and sign up to e-newsletters etc but you need to be focused. One good first step is to identify the thought leaders in your sector and follow their content outputs.
It’s also useful to choose random sources of information outside of your sector, to trigger lateral thinking. For example, at Agile Rose we sometimes buy architecture and fashion magazines, just to fire up the mind’s synapses on other ways of looking at the world.
You can’t do it all – focus on what you’re good at
It’s a truism that most senior executives believe they understand marketing. It may be so, but it doesn’t mean that they get their hands dirty and actually write plans and tactics.
You need to be ruthless about what skills you will focus on, and which ones you will outsource. You probably have one core skill which enabled you to create your start up idea and its solution, but other skills your start up will need include accounting, design (logo, web site etc) and yes, marketing. So you need to build a virtual team around you, leaving you with the right balance of time to focus on what you do best.
Anticipate a competitive response
When you launch, you will probably experience a response from your closest competitors. Good! It means you are a threat to them. However before launching, consider what type of response they will make, and how to counter it. For example, they may lower their prices tactically, so think how you would respond.
Stay strong – but don’t burn out
As we wrote at the beginning, start ups are not easy. If they were, everyone would do it. Images from Silicon Valley have us believe that sleeping under desks and working around the clock is the natural order of things. It is not. Yes, there will be times you work late, but burning out achieves nothing, so get enough rest, exercise and outside stimulation, which will flow back into your start up. Good luck!