Marketing in a startup can feel overwhelming – you know that there are a thousand things that you ought to be doing but your marketing budget is miniscule and you’re already working every spare minute you have.
So how do you decide where to start? Which marketing activities need to be prioritised as a matter of urgency and which can wait?
Supporting every step of the sale
Although many people think of marketing as “getting yourself known” (or “promotion”), marketing is actually much bigger than that. Good, effective marketing aims to support your customers through the whole buying process. The sales funnel model is really useful here, as it explains the process by which people buy:
And good marketing will help your customers move comfortably – and at a pace that suits them – from one step to the next, to the next. But don’t be fooled by its name: the sales funnel is not a funnel, it’s really a colander and customers leak out as they go down. Bryony Thomas, in her best-selling book Watertight Marketing, describes 13 ways that customers leak out of the sales funnel:
So with a brand new business (or even with one that’s been operating for a while), how do you go about plugging all these leaks? Where do you start? Start at the bottom The Watertight Marketing methodology turns the funnel on its head to plug the leaks from the bottom up – starting with Leak no 1: forgotten customers.
Hang on, I hear you say, I’m a startup – I don’t have any customers (or maybe just a couple). Why spend my tiny marketing budget on people who have already bought from me?
1. It costs far more to win new customers than to sell to existing customers.
2. If you only have one customer, make sure they’re they happiest customer alive so that they tell everyone they know about you and provide a good testimonial or review: both of which will bring you more customers. So trust me on this: start at the bottom.
Your minimum viable marketing operation
The second thing to bear in mind is the concept of the minimum viable product coined by Frank Robinson and explained well in The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. The concept (if you’re not familiar) is to create a product with only the basic, core features so that it can be sold and tested to provide marketing information to feed back into product development. The same concept applies here, to your minimum viable marketing operation. So back to plugging leaks: what can you put in place – at a minimum – that will support your customers through each step of the sale? You only need something functional against each of the Thirteen Touchpoint Leaks to begin with. Then, as your sales start to increase you tweak and improve each of the leaks – again, starting from the bottom of the funnel and working upwards.
Sales results for the long-term
If you take this bottom-up approach, then when you start spending money on an awareness campaign you will not be wasting money promoting only for the majority to leak out. By spending whatever budget you have this way, you will build a marketing operation, and a business, that will deliver consistent sales results for the long term.