There is a really good post from the co-founder of Teamwork about their climb to startup success.
It’s fascinating on many levels including the fact that they never took investment money. They really focused on creating a great product. They had to pay a relatively large sum for their domain, but it was hugely worth it.
What stood out to me also was their hindsight on the importance of marketing.
In fact, at the end where he recaps the takeaways from the post he states: “Be ultra serious about marketing from day one…Try Everything, Test Everything.”
At Teamwork, they focused heavily on the product for a long time. They were able to do very well without any marketing efforts, but now they’re starting to invest and seeing the payoff and they’re wishing they would have invested sooner.
But that’s always easy to see in hindsight like he said. Many entrepreneurs start companies and later say they wish they would have started it sooner. Anytime something seems to work well you always wonder why you were slow to do it sooner.
But with founders willing to share stories like this we can learn from their experiences. While we’re all different we’re also similar in many ways and startups often experience many of the same things.
So we can take from this the fact that marketing is important no matter what stage you’re at.
I agree with the test everything mantra, but it’s still good to have a priority list especially if you’re self-funding.
Here are the steps you can take to create your own marketing priority list.
Step 1. Target Customer
It’s always good to start with your target customer. If you’re a brand new startup you’ll have to use a little guessing. If you’ve been established for a bit it can be easier because you know what customers are your ideal customers. They’re the ones that are the most profitable. They require the least effort from you to provide them with the most satisfaction.
I thought about that point on “least effort”. It doesn’t seem right. You’re obviously providing a great product or service. All I’m saying is that your ideal customers love what you’re doing. They don’t require a lot of extra effort to please.
And you want more of them.
Once you know who your target customer is you can create a document of their attributes and target more people just like them. It’s good to take this narrow approach. When you’re investing in marketing you want to make sure you’re getting the best payoff. It generally takes the same effort to get your ideal customer as it does to get a potentially headache customer.
Step 2. Internal Marketing Analysis
If you’re a startup and you haven’t done any marketing then this part will be quick. But even if you’re just starting out you have probably used some social media even on a personal level. And you may have a website already that is getting some kind of traffic. Maybe you already have a small email list.
The point here is that whatever you’ve been doing can give you some information on what has the most potential to work going forward. For example, if you’ve been getting engagement on Facebook, but not on Twitter then Facebook will probably take priority over Twitter on your marketing priority list.
You want to give yourself the best chance of success and looking at what you’ve already done can provide some insight to help make those decisions.
Step 3. Competitor Marketing Analysis
I like to look internally first when assessing what has worked. It’s always good to get your own house in order before looking outside. I think good NFL coaches take that approach. They do look at video of what the next opponent is doing, but after each game they first do self-assessment to see what they did that went well and where improvement is needed.
Then they look at what the opposing team has been doing.
You might not be able to get all the details on what your competition is doing, but you can probably get more than you think. You can see if they’re using Google AdWords. You can probably figure out if they’re doing social advertising. A little trick is to visit their website, browse around and visit other sites including social media. You can see if they’re doing any retargeting.
You can look on their social channels to see where they’re investing their resources. You can see if they’re creating regular blog posts, ebooks, white papers, etc. You can signup for their email list.
You could look on their case studies page and reach out to a few of their customers and ask how the relationship began. You might find that the competitor is doing outreach like cold calling or cold emailing.
Step 4. Resource Assessment
By now you’ll be getting a really good idea of where you should be investing your time and money first with marketing. But at this point it’s good to step back and assess the resources you’ll need to carry out all the potential efforts.
And I’ll say that generally you’ll need more than what you might be thinking. For example, it’s not uncommon for companies, even large companies, to have one person in charge of “social media” and that usually includes five social profiles along with other efforts like blogging, video, podcasting and more.
That’s too much for one person to handle especially if you want to give each channel a good effort.
You could find companies that you think do well with the channels you’re looking at and ask them what resources they have dedicated. It might be a mix of internal and external resources. You might also find some information on software tools and the amount of money you’re looking at investing.
Step 5. Priority List
Now you can really lay out your priority list. Obviously you’ll start with the biggest opportunity. It will be the channel that presents the lowest cost and least effort to acquire the most customers. You’ll need to know your customer lifetime value. This will help you determine how much you can invest in your top priority and how much you can invest in other channels.
You might have three channels that you can really dive into, but don’t overlook the others. Like the founder of Teamwork said, it’s good to test everything. You can dip your toe into all the channels on your list and see if anything catches you by surprise. Then you can rearrange your resources and invest in what’s working.
That being said, you still want to give each channel a chance to succeed. That’s especially true with organic efforts like SEO, content and social. These take time to develop. We’re talking years. That’s a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity because not everyone of your competitors will be willing to make that investment.
Step 6. Action Plan
Once you have your priority list it’s time to put the plan in action. You’ll have to do the hiring that you need to do. You’ll have to set a schedule especially for content efforts so you’re creating consistent content. This step might include hiring someone to take over blogging, for example. You know blogging is one of your priorities, but you’re not entirely sure how to execute it so you bring in someone to help create the plan and then execute it.
Step 7. Long-Term Tracking
Finally, you’ll need a plan to track the success. And again, you’re looking at the long-term trends as well as the short-term. I would put emphasis on what’s happening in the long-term. You can learn things day-to-day and month-to-month and make changes, but when you’re assessing the success of any channel you’ll want to see how things change over a year or even years.
Marketing is often something that can get overlooked with businesses, especially startups. You can grow without marketing efforts and that’s great, but the reality is that you would probably be leaving some growth on the table. Most look back and wonder why they didn’t invest in marketing earlier in the process.
The luck for you is that you now know that and can start investing right now. But a good first step is to create a priority list. The steps above are the ones you want to take to create your list.