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  • Writer's pictureAgnish Ghatak

Marketing Strategy Guide for Startups

When it comes to Marketing Strategy, most startups typically face an uphill task, irrespective of the size of the problem they are solving or how good their product is. One of the top and most common challenges is constrained resources — money and/or people. Low awareness levels and number of customers are a close second. Breaking through these barriers is quintessential for startups to become viable and succeed.

Here are 4 steps you can take to overcome these hurdles and develop a marketing strategy to boost your business:

1. Market Analysis

2. Channel Strategy

3. Establish and Cultivate Fans

4. Test, Analyse and Improvise

Step 1: Market Analysis:

Understanding the gaps in the current market and the unmet demands of the customer is key to scoring wins in the long term! The core of every marketing strategy is the analysis of the current landscape (market and competition) and then zero in on the ideal customer profiles.

The type of customers you target right from the outset is key to penetrating the market quickly and sustainably. Geoffrey Moore best explains this in his evergreen book : Crossing the Chasm. While Innovators (1.5%) and Early Adopters (13.5%) comprise only 15% of the total market, it is what they think, feed and do that determines the success of any product or service.

So, who are the innovators and early adopters for your startup? Once you figure that out, you can assess how the competition offerings, channels and communications are best placed for them.

Drawing up Buyer Personas are a great way to solidify understanding of your ideal customers. Buyer Personas are fictional characters which represent your ideal customer profile. Below is an example to illustrate what this could look like.

As time progresses and your understanding of your customer improves, it’s important to keep enriching these profiles. While there may be many customer types you could feel are a good target, typically 2-3 personas is the maximum you should concentrate on.

Step 2: Communication and Channel Strategy

Once you have a clear understanding of who exactly you want to target (i.e. your Buyer Personas), having clear, relevant and consistent communication is the key to reaching them effectively. This is where your understanding of your customers will play a vital role.

People hate irrelevant and confusing messaging. It may be shocking, but the reality is that very few truly care about the details of the actual product - all they really want to understand is how your product or service will help them solve their challenges, whether personal or business related.

The messaging that a startup creates should be crafted deliberately with the end user in mind. It needs to be easy to understand, informative, and convincing. Only then can the website traffic turn into leads and then to future customers.

This core messaging then has to be translated into relevant content and published based on the target customer preferences. Some triggering questions would include:

· Which platforms are they present in?

· Which apps/websites do they use?

· What topics are they interested in?

· When do they read emails?

· When do they access social media channels?

The deeper you dig into the psyche of the customer and understand their challenges, the more relevant your creative content will be. For an extensive list of the different types of content, check out this resource by Coschedule.

Using a content calendar (Hubspot gives some great tips and templates) will help you manage your content lifecycle across different marketing channels efficiently. Depending on the channels you choose, some content can be adapted for various channels while others have to specifically be created.

Startups should ideally start with:

· An SEO optimised website

· 2 to 3 most relevant social media channels

· An email marketing strategy with personalised paths

The infographic below gives a holistic view of different channels available in the Owned, Paid, Shared and Earned space. One can start with organically distributing the content on the owned and shared channels, and later decide on promoting them on paid media channels based on performance.

Step 3: Establish and Cultivate Reputation

According to a 2020 study by Bright Local, 87% of customers read online reviews for local businesses. An unfavourable reputation can prove detrimental to marketing and sales strategies and can dent customer trust for a long time. On the other hand, if handled appropriately, your startup can foster fans who will advocate and defend your brand.

Here are some best practices startups can use to cultivate trust:

  • Diligently request customer feedback and act on it.

  • Request testimonials and public reviews when you've exceeded expectations.

  • Compile other types of social proof such as case studies, and share this on owned and shared media.

  • Respond to online reviews (Google, Yelp, Business Pages, Social Media) in a timely and professional manner.

  • Create a referral program to reward and recognise your most valuable customers. These are your brand ambassadors, so treat them as such!

Step 4: Test, Analyse and Repeat

Congratulations, almost there! Or, is this the beginning? Funny thing, the learning never stops!

As you set up communications, content, channels and convert customers, you will gain better insights into what works and what doesn’t. Make sure to redirect your marketing efforts to optimise your ROI.

When starting to experiment, you can use the below checklist:

Check the hypothesis :

  • What are the ideas to test in the experiment?

  • What will be considered success or failure?

Check your metrics :

  • What to measure, and time intervals to consider.

  • Measure from the start.

  • Analyse the increase/decrease in performance when compared to the control or base option.

Check your budgets :

  • Finalise budget and allocations at the start of the campaign.

  • Make sure to never cross the total budget, at any cost!

Iterate :

  • Monitor key metrics continuously.

  • Keep updating the buyer personas based on the learnings.

  • If something goes haywire, pause the campaign, identify the cause and optimise.

  • Reallocate budgets appropriately, based on the increase/decrease in performance measured.

When it comes to marketing, it all comes down to what works for you. There may be quite a few ways of achieving the results, but the goal is to continuously optimise and find the strategy with the highest effectiveness and efficiency for your startup. The sharper we target, the more relevant and successful the marketing strategies will be.

Good luck!

Written by guest blogger and marketing expert: Agnish Ghatak

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