90% of startups fail, and while the reasons vary from targeting the wrong audience to misinterpreting market demand, most of them boil down to one thing – an ineffective marketing strategy.
As the number of startups increases with every passing day, creating a marketing strategy that ensures revenue in the early stages can be challenging. Here’s a detailed guide on formulating a marketing strategy for startups.
Why is Marketing for Startups Different?
When creating a marketing strategy, you need to address short-term and long-term goals. These goals will be different for startups, and hence, a unique marketing approach is essential.
When formulating a marketing strategy, most startup owners don’t take a diversifying marketing approach to cater to both short-term and long-term needs. They always take a long-term approach – three, five, or ten years down the line. In the startup world, there’s no such thing as long-term. There’s only today.
The Four Components of a Go-To-Market Strategy
A GTM strategy, regardless of your product or service, includes the following four components.
1. Product Market Fit: Determine the problem your product or service solves.
2. Target Audience: Whose problems are you solving? What challenges are they facing, and what are their pain points?
3. Demand and Competition: Are your target customers actively looking for the solution that you provide? Also, which providers are already offering a similar product?
4. Distribution: How will you reach your target audience? Would it be through a website, mobile app, social media, or offline channels?
How to Formulate a Marketing Strategy That Generates Revenue in Early Stages?
Here’s a step-by-step guide to devising a marketing strategy for startups.
1. Understand the Product Market Fit
Understanding the product-market fit is the primary step in creating a go-to marketing strategy. It doesn’t matter how revolutionary or sophisticated your idea is. If no one needs it, it won’t sell. The market always wins. Lack of demand, which translates to misinterpreting product-market fit, is one of the main reasons why startups fail.
The process of determining the product-market fit can be boiled down to a series of specified steps. It begins with identifying your target customers and what they need. Create accurate buyer personas to determine what keeps your customers up at night.
Then, specify your unique value proposition (USP). What is it that makes your product better than the rest of the competition? How can your product resolve the problem better than others? Once you have these checkboxes ticked, you can go ahead and build the minimum viable product (MVP).
Once your MVP is ready, you can test the product-market fit with the 40% rule. Survey your existing customers and ask them how disappointed they would be if they could no longer use your product. If at least 40% of your customers say that they’ll be disappointed if they could no longer access your product, you’re on the right track.
2. Find Your Target Audience
It’s time to get down to the STP of marketing – segmentation, targeting, and positioning. As Tim Ferris said, “If your product is for everyone, it’s for nobody.” No matter how good your product or marketing tactics are, you won’t generate any results if you don’t speak to the right audience.
How to find your target audience? Here’s a three-step roadmap to follow:
Stage-1: In this phase, you identify your audience’s basic demographics. Let’s say you’re a SaaS company offering a cloud-based CRM solution. Your target prospects could be young and middle-aged business owners located either in your country or across the globe.
Stage-2: Start in-depth segmentation of your target audience. Considering the CRM example, determine which industries or business types you will target. What specific problems will you solve? Will you offer your services to startups, SMBs, or enterprises? In the case of B2C, what are the behaviors, interests, preferences, and problems of your target customers?
Stage-3: In the final stage, you figure out how you will position yourself in front of your audience. It largely depends on the type and preferences of your target customers. For example, if you want to target young females, you can think of sharing visual-based content on platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Of course, there’s no hard and fast rule to identify your audience. You can go beyond these steps and break some rules if you believe it’ll work for your business.
Conduct Competitor Research
Once you’ve determined product-market fit and identified your target customers, you need to find your competitors and what they’re doing.
First, identify your competitors. A simple tactic to do this is by searching for the keywords you want to rank for on Google. The first few businesses that rank on the first page are your primary competitors – they’re targeting the same audience and have a similar product. You can delve deeper and also find secondary competitors. These businesses sell a high-end or low-end version of your product, and hence, sell to a different audience.
Once you’ve found your primary and secondary competitors, analyze them in detail. Examine their website, mobile app, social media, content, marketing strategies, customer support, etc. Determine the customer experience they’re providing and the things that they’re doing right or wrong.
3. Ensure Brand Consistency
While brand consistency is often considered to be more crucial for larger enterprises, startups can also benefit from it. In a nutshell, brand consistency refers to the delivery of brand messaging in line with your brand’s values, identity, and strategy. It enables your target audience to access your core message, resulting in more effective brand recognition.
To ensure brand consistency, you need to develop clear brand guidelines and pay attention to corporate culture and internal branding. It’s also essential to keep brand consistency in mind when creating content. This includes using your logo and design elements consistently. You can also take your branding efforts online with OOH advertising and by using QR codes with a logo, to improve branded online-offline customer connect.
4. Find the Right Channels for Outreach
If you’re to grow and promote your business online, you’ll undoubtedly have a website, and investing in SEO is apparent. But with SEO becoming hyper-competitive, you can’t rely solely on it to reach your target audience. You’ll need to exploit other channels.
However, the world of social media isn’t the same as it was a decade ago when social media meant nothing but Facebook. Now, there are over 100 social media sites out there, each having its USPs and drawbacks.
But when it comes to startup marketing, keep things simple and stick to the most popular platforms. Here are some common channels and their respective user behaviors:
● Facebook: It’s the largest social platform globally and is used by all types of audiences. However, teens and younger adults are ditching Facebook for other, more fun, and interactive platforms. But you can still find a significant number of millennials and middle-aged adults on Facebook.
● Instagram: Instagram is more focused on younger audiences aged 18-35. If you want to appeal to a young audience, primarily through media content like images, GIFs, and videos, Instagram can be an ideal pick.
● Twitter: Twitter has a very specific kind of audience – the audience that expects some value, either in the form of information or entertainment. You can also use Twitter if you want to share news or resolve customer queries.
● LinkedIn: The majority of LinkedIn users are business owners, entrepreneurs, working professionals, and students. If you’re a B2B business, especially a service or digital product provider, LinkedIn can do wonders for you.
Of course, there are other channels that you can exploit, such as Pinterest, Reddit, and TikTok. Understand your audience, find where they are, and pick a social channel accordingly.
Apart from social media, you can use third-party websites to increase outreach and reach your target audience. You can find websites with high domain authority and readership that have an audience you want to target. Create a guest posting strategy and contribute to these websites to reach a broader audience. You can even hire professional content writers to conduct your outreach or write compelling guest post content.
Don’t limit your efforts to online channels. While digital is the new normal, offline channels remain as strong as ever. Use OOH advertisements, newspaper ads, TV ads, QR codes, brochures, flyers, etc., to engage your offline audience. We’ll talk more about using offline channels in the upcoming sections.
5. Create Ads that Elicit Emotions
As a startup, you might be tempted to sell logic, thinking that your audience would make pragmatic buying decisions. But here’s the truth: emotions always outsell logic. No matter how great your product is, if you can’t engage your audience emotionally, you won’t sell anything. Campaigns with purely emotional content are twice as likely to perform better than rational content.
So, create ads that appeal to your audience’s emotions. Four primary emotions that you can tap into are happiness, fear, anger, and sadness.
6. Take Your Marketing Efforts Offline
While online marketing has unprecedented benefits, it’s hyper-competitive. Offline marketing, on the other hand, is the road less traveled. While the majority of established businesses leverage traditional marketing, not a lot of startups do that. If you decide to go offline, you’ll provide your startup with a significant competitive edge.
QR codes are an excellent tool for integrating your offline marketing efforts. You can use a QR code generator to create a QR code and link it to your website, social media, landing pages, email newsletters that you send out to your email list, discounts, and other online destinations. This way, you can share your brand message with an offline audience, thereby bridging the online-offline gap. You can also use QR codes for direct selling, telling map directions, and more.
Some Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
We discussed the steps you must take to formulate a marketing strategy that helps generate revenue at an early stage. However, there are a few mistakes that could hurt your startup. Here are a few marketing blunders startups should avoid.
- Hiring an in-house staff early on
- Not having a website or social media presence.
- Not implementing a robust SEO strategy and investing in SEO tools.
- Failing to continuously analyze and improve your marketing strategy
- Not utilizing blogs and content marketing effectively.
- Targeting the wrong audience.
- Focusing too much on competitors.
Coming up with a killer marketing plan can be a challenge for startup owners. But it’s essential to keep things simple and not overcomplicate them. Understand your audience well and figure out the best way to reach and engage them. Use the right challenge and implement a blend of online and offline marketing to achieve the best outcomes.
Akshay Deogiri is an SEO outreach specialist at Beaconstac, enabling businesses to bridge their gap between the digital and offline worlds through custom QR codes.