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Article | Ten Commandments of Marketing for Startups

Your startup took off like a rocket: you have your website, your social media, and your grand vision. Now you want to attract customers and investors so you start thinking about marketing. Here’s the issue: you have no idea where to begin; your business is too small to afford a marketing specialist and in general you are not sure what marketing really is. I put together this list of ten commandments for a healthy marketing strategy for startups to get onto the right path!

#1 Start with marketing in mind

I am a marketing consultant so of course, I will tell you that marketing should be your main focus right next to your product. Why? Because a good marketing strategy is defined by and rooted in the vision of your business. Because to quote Simon Sinek, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Ideally, you develop your marketing strategy alongside your vision, product concept and positioning but many entrepreneurs I spoke to only think about marketing when it comes to the selling phase. Deep breath, not all is lost if you find yourself in the same spot too!

Pull everything you did for your business plan and start your marketing strategy from there. Your brand idea will dictate your copy. Your target audience will determine what channels you need to use. Your business end goal will polish the short and long-term goals of your marketing efforts.

#2 Complete your documentation

say, ‘brand guidelines, marketing strategy document, marketing personas, SEO worksheet, website content plan….’
You say, ‘Um, bitte?’.

Be that person and create a complete and detailed documentation of your marketing strategy. Have one document, where your wholesome marketing plan can be looked at and improved, polished, and referred to. The internet is full of free templates you can get your hands on.

Once you create these documents you will see that putting your marketing strategy into words helps you keep track of your campaigns, allocate your resources and start seeing the big picture.

#3 Become a full-stack marketer

If you open your own business, you have to go in with the mindset of a can-do person. Come to terms with the fact that you will have to learn a lot of things on your own to help your startup thrive. Take time to enrol in marketing courses on Udemy or Skillshare, and attend workshops and training. You can also check out free resources, such as:

#4 Set up a feedback system

Your startup’s testing phase is when you can hammer out your marketing strategy. Make sure you create a solid feedback system for your product, such as asking customers for testimonials, sending them a post-purchase evaluation form or a regular survey. Monitor your Google Analytics to check the strength of your online offering, and run focus groups to hear opinions about your advertising campaign before it launches. Make sure you check your social media analytics regularly to determine what content makes your audience tick.

#5 Be smart about your resources

Real talk: you have limited resources in terms of manpower and finances. You rely on goodwill, free content and try to spend your money in a smart way. It’s part of being in the startup business. So why are you not allocating your time and physical resources in a more efficient way?

I recently did a series of free marketing consultations at the Impact Hub Vienna. Every single person I spoke to had a complex marketing plan but actually lacked time and expertise to action it. Time and time again I speak to solopreneurs, who just launched and landed 5 social media profiles, weekly blogs, a newsletter and oh, they also do a podcast. Focus on less but be consistent. Be realistic about what you can do and don’t beat yourself up about not delivering the amount of content you think you should. Automate where you can and templatise like there is no tomorrow.

#6 Own your channels

In the era of pay-to-play and constant algorithm changes, it’s impossible to succeed on social media and collect large following the same way startups did just 2 years ago. This is why it is so important to invest more time into the channels you own such as your website and your newsletter list. Tomorrow Facebook might decide that Business Pages are invisible unless they pay but nobody can touch your newsletter list.

#7 Invest in your customers

When somebody buys from you, they are your kings and queens. Your customer is more important than a potential customer. Make sure you appreciate that relationship and invest into amplifying its meaning. Make sure to comment on the social media post they wrote about you and reshare it. Get their testimonial. Thank them in a social media message. Send them a follow-up email with a special offer. Remember their birthday. Such small things will earn you true customer loyalty.

#8 Learn the basics of good copywriting

Content is important but how do you get people to visit your page or click on the sign-up button? You flirt with them through a good copy. Your feedback loops, contact with your customers, social media analytics, and website traffic data will give you a good indication of what type of copy does it for your target audience. Don’t wait to brush up on this valuable skill though! You should definitely check out CopyHackers to learn how to test and polish your writing to start converting viewers into participants.

#9 Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate

The beauty of testing your startup concept is the fact that you get to re-evaluate and improve. However, don’t assume that the testing phase ever ends. Your marketing strategy is subject to literally everything; from the variable economic situation, changing buying tendencies, and social media algorithm updates, to the new data policy. Keep improving but don’t be afraid to re-evaluate when you have to and accept it as part of the process.

#10 Dare to be different

There is the invisible benchmark of marketing for startups that have every new venture set up a Facebook page, reach to local newspapers, host an event, participate in online giveaways and a number of other online must-dos. Many people give in and burn out by the time they get the opportunity to snatch a significant market share. Grow at your own pace with your own rules. You don’t have to have a robust content marketing plan or work on your Instagram when you don’t really believe these tools will serve your vision. Do things differently. Think about your resources, your skills and your passion. At the end of the day, your marketing strategy relies on your consistency and creativity. Protect these assets by avoiding things getting too dull.

This article was written for the Impact Hub Vienna blog and published on the 13th of February, 2018. Access it online here.