[Guest article contributed by Pratik Dholakiya, Director of SEO & VP of Marketing at E2M solutions]
Marketing is the fuel that drives business. While all businesses need marketing, startups need lot more. Just as an automobile needs plenty of torque to start and roll, a startup needs that much more push to get going and become sustainable over time. Startups literally have to hustle, push, and go after clients aggressively. As such marketing your startup is the most crucial part of getting started.
Here are six fundamental principles of marketing that startups shouldn’t forget:
Marketing has an umbrella approach, and not needle-like sharp focus
An effective marketing strategy is almost always a mix of various tactics. It’s not about using this media and that tactic. It’s never about doing what everyone else is doing.
Marketing a startup can never be checked off a list; it can’t be template (at least not yet); and the effective flow for marketing only begins to take shape after a while. As a startup, don’t box yourself. Don’t put your startup on a fixed path. Don’t write its destiny on a few lines you planned. Put your startup on an uncharted path to let it go where appropriate. Try all methods of marketing, analyze each method for ROI, test it all, and then figure out what works best.
At the beginning, don’t decide on this method or that. Don’t stick to print or mass media; don’t convince yourself that online marketing doesn’t work or is not relevant for your business. Don’t decide anything until you try it out as you should.
Marketing won’t happen without bottlenecks
As for most things in life, the beginning of everything is always a test of endurance, hope, effort, and determination. Startups are the microcosm of the birth of a business.
This is the time when the stage is set; the momentum builds; processes take shape; culture takes birth; and customers start rolling in. None of that is going to be sliding on buttered bread, though. If the stories of startup founders are anything to go by, nothing about running a startup is easy at all. Long hours, fickle-minded employees, governmental interventions, control issues, company formation blues, hiring and keeping the best talent, finding customers… the list never ends.
Go pass these bottlenecks and there’s legacy waiting for every startup. History waits for you to make it.
Marketing is about numbers that startups should work on
Everyone knows that marketing and sales is a numbers game. Most businesses bear marketing expenses because they can; the startups cannot. Most startups don’t have the marketing muscle or the financial muscle to finance marketing campaigns.
Yet, a startup needs those crucial numbers; it has to reach the mass of customers. So, you have to find a way to reach numbers without spending too much. Go online, try guerilla marketing; hawk everywhere. Whether you are VC funded or self-funded, marketing is a continuous – almost religious affair.
When you are working on online marketing, look for free but effective ways to promote your business such as Blogger Outreach programs, DIY SEO (Do It Yourself SEO), in-house content production, self-managed social media promotions, etc.
Work on releasing press releases, try to get some media coverage, get other bloggers and publishing houses to publish about you, run contests, and work on the buzz.
Products and services don’t sell by themselves; that’s up to you
Most entrepreneurs suffer from “blinded love” for the products, services, or the ideas that they want to bet on and invest in. Love is fine but, it’s the “blind’ part of the love that hurts. Blinded love prevents entrepreneurs from seeing a pragmatic picture of their path to business success.
If you thought that your product or service is good enough to sell on its own, it won’t. Unless you sell the kind of products that are always in demand (fuel, water, and other such commoditized needs), your business will need a push. Marketing gives your business that kick to move. Marketing moves products and services to customers.
Marketing helps communicate why customers should go for your offerings instead of those of your competitors. Marketing – the whole of the efforts combined – help form impressions on the minds of customers, form opinions, push the buying process into action, convince customers while reassuring them of a thorough solution to their problem.
Don’t fall into the trap of “this-is-so-good-that-it’ll-sell-by-itself trap”. Never.
Marketing is not a department; it’s a culture
Most businesses are content with putting marketing up there alongside finance, human resources, accounting, manufacturing, production, design, and distribution. Agreed that they are all inter-linked. They all have a role to play to ensure smooth running of your business.
Marketing, however, is the only part of the business that makes money; the rest of the functions are management functions. That’s why a startup should breed itself to make marketing a culture – something that the founders; the stakeholders such as the employees and investors; and everyone else involved consider next to religion. Make marketing a habit; not a task to do. Marketing should become a part of your startup’s character; not as an included department.
There’s a reason why Apple markets its products well. Customers love flying South-west Airlines; people love to have coffee at Starbucks; and FedEx is usually the default option for shipping items.
Marketing lasts forever
You don’t just market or promote aggressively when you are startup and let go of it when you grow bigger. You don’t promote just when you need to and plug it out of your business eco-system when you are apparently doing well. You don’t market like everyone else does; and you’ll certainly not market for a few years and then relax.
Businesses are built to be long-term entities and that means that marketing should be long-term too. You don’t plug out marketing – it doesn’t stop; there are no holidays; and marketing doesn’t go off into a limbo.
Startups need marketing more than anything else. Yet, the resources to market effectively are relatively constrained for a startup. It’s one of those conundrums that entrepreneurs face. More often than not, they find the answers.
How are you going about marketing your startup? What gives?