Two months into your online business and something is terribly wrong. You haven’t made one sale thus far. What could be wrong? After all, you’ve got the best eCommerce platform, with stunning graphics and detailed product catalogs. Even more, every product your site has a picture with a price and a description about its features and attributes. And yet, no sales. The thing that is wrong is that you haven’t done startup marketing.
No wonder nobody finds your website or talk about your business in the social media channels. Without a marketing strategy in your startup plan, your website will eventually be doomed to the darkest corners of the internet.
Startup marketing – an afterthought
Many owners of startup businesses only think about marketing their businesses after they’ve started operations. Indeed, due to budget issues and demands on people, the marketing function usually gets developed incrementally, suggests Fram (2012). And it is exactly here where the problem begins with many business startups…
Salminen and Teixeira, (2012) interviewed 21 owners of technology startups. They asked them questions related to marketing challenges, such as value proposition, target market (customers), market research, and revenue models. Interesting, the most repetitive problem reported by the startup owners was “getting users”. Although this problem appears commonly, it was surprising that the startups were not demonstrating a stronger interest in market research, i.e. knowing their potential customers.
In fact, according to Covel (2018) many startups fail – even if they offer a great product or groundbreaking service – because they don’t get the word out. They may think the product will sell itself. Or they may think marketing is somehow underhanded, or dirty.
Without paying customers, you won’t have a business – as simple as that!
Getting startup marketing into your business plan
Why is the “marketing” section of startup business plans sometimes neglected or ignored?
Everybody that starts a business should at least have some sort of a business plan on the table. Indeed, a written business plan forces you to think realistically, objectively and unemotionally about your business (Tasmanian Government). Too many times a business plan is all about how good the products are; or the unique service that you offer. But where will the money come from?
It’s not always about you and your business; it’s mostly about your customers and satisfying their needs and wants…
Your startup marketing plan
Did you consider who’s going to buy you product or service? Where are they? Who are your competitors? That’s thinking about startup marketing. Now that’s why marketing should be part of your startup business plan.
Here’s a basic outline (and some detail) for your startup marketing plan (Covel, 2018).
Start with your objectives
The first step in developing your marketing plan is to establish the marketing objectives that will accomplish your business goals.
Conduct some research
This is the “how” in your plan.
- How will you position your business against other business?
- What target markets are your best prospects to achieve your goals?
- How will you price your offerings to achieve your goals?
Outline your tactics
Tactics are the “what” in your plan. Start by thinking about what you should do first to achieve the best results. A tactic may be to get users to visit your website; or to get users to subscribe to your website’s mailing list. Indeed, a focus on your customers.
Measure each tactic
You need to measure what tactics are the best at delivering your objectives. Units of measurements can range from web traffic to increases in sales volume.
Implement the plan
Your plan is only as good as its implementation, so also create a plan for precisely how you’re going to execute it.
But you also need money to implement your startup marketing plan.
Budgeting for the startup marketing plan
How much you’re going to spend on your startup marketing may depend on the following:
- How established is your business? With a startup, almost nobody has heard about your business. So marketing costs may be as much as 15% of your sales early on.
- What industry are you in? Every industry is different, and some are more reliant on marketing than others. You should have a sense of how much your competitors are spending.
- How much can you really afford? Don’t spend yourself into a hole that you can’t dig out of.
After your startup marketing plan – where on earth do you begin?
Now that you’ve got some answers from your marketing research efforts, you need to start marketing your business. Ellie Martin (EContent) gives the following advice:
- Narrow your target market. Digital marketing is about being persuasive online. In order to do this, you’ll need to know whom you’re speaking to.
- Who do you believe will be interested in your product or service?
- Who is the competition marketing to?
- Who is under-served?
- Research social media platforms. Research which social media platforms are best suited for your target market and your specific brand and message. Devote yourself to one or two of the best platforms and stick with them.
- Use metrics to refine your strategy. In the beginning, you’ll simply track important metrics, such as likes, retweets, unique site visitors, and so on. Once you’ve identified the metrics you’d like to track, carry out your marketing plan. Make sure to come back and compare your marketing hypotheses with your actual findings—and revise your strategy accordingly.
So, if your site doesn’t bring in the monies that you’ve anticipated, you probably don’t have a marketing plan or you are targeting the wrong segments in the wrong channels. Take some time and more money and get users to know about your offerings. Indeed, if they find it useful or pleasant, they will talk about it.
And soon the sales will just happen!
A Marketing Plan helps you to communicate the right content to the right audience.
Read also: Planning Your Online Business
Covel, S. 2018. Marketing your Startup: the Inc. guide to getting customers, gaining traction, and growing your business, New York: AMACOM.
Fram, E. 2012. Balancing startup marketing & sales: Why it’s a tough management call [Transcript], Ninth Biennial J. Warren McClure Lecture, Rochester Institute of Technology.
Salminen, J. and Teixeira, J. 2012. Critical assessment of value propositions and marketing of technology startups: evidence from Finland, Turku School of Economics.
Feature image: Pexels
Image in post: Pexels