Creating the Marketing Strategy Your Startup Needs
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Break Your Marketing Strategy into Five Key Areas
Creating a marketing strategy for your startup from nothing can seem like an impossible task, but we’re here to tell you differently. By breaking your strategy down into five key areas, you can create a comprehensive plan that will help you launch a product, successfully pivot the company, or reach new customers.
This guide will take you from building the foundation, including your brand story, all the way to customer acquisition and the tools you need to get there. These practical examples are what we use for every client, which is why we know they work. Ready? Let’s get started.
Examine Your Messaging
People purchase from brands, not companies. Telling your brand story through your website, every social calendar, and every interaction with customers will help you become more than a company. These are some questions you need to answer while crafting your messaging:
- Who are you?
- How would you describe your personality?
- What problem are you solving?
- What sets you apart in your industry?
- Who do you want as a customer?
- Are you saying the right things to attract them?
- What questions will they have about your product?
- What products or services with you never offer?
Create a story with these answers. Focus on why you’re the right company to solve their problem, not your competitors.
When you and your team know this information, you can create clear marketing materials. Clear marketing materials will enhance your brand, instead of constrict it, making it an essential component of your marketing strategy.
Create Customer Personas for Your Startup
In order to market effectively to your audience, you need to know who your audience is. This means creating personas around the demographics you want to reach. Be specific! Give them a name, an age, a job, and hobbies. Create your ideal customer, then create every piece of content for them.
You can have more than one but keep it simple. Create one persona for each type of customer, and pass all product decisions through this lens: what would your persona choose?
Establish Your Methodology
Ultimately, you want to create engaging content that your audience resonates with. The right inbound marketing strategy will create promoters out of strangers. This focuses on bringing in potential customers with valuable content, then nurturing those leads until they become a customer.
With inbound marketing, lead generation is a must. Whether it’s through a blogging strategy, free guides behind an email wall, or both, ensure that this is a part of your marketing methodology. Other complimentary pieces include Facebook Lead Forms, landing pages, custom audiences, and email workflows to turn strangers into promoters for your brand.
As a startup, the day will almost certainly come when you need to pivot. When you have a methodology in place, it’s easy to take this plan and fill in the gaps the pivot leaves in its wake. Content provides value, and when you have a strong plan it makes the pivots less stressful and more efficient.
Two of the best ways to focus on lead generation is through Google AdWords and Facebook Lead Forms. Begin by hyper targeting your audience using their available tools and focus on ad creative that speaks directly to them.
The Insurance Nana is a health and life insurance agent in Georgia, specializing in finding the best coverage and rates for those wanting comprehensive coverage. Using her customer personas, we use ad targeting to help reach people displaying the right behaviors. This includes life changes like having a baby or moving.
Facebook’s targeting is particularly powerful, and we recommend using it to maximize your ad spend. You can focus on demo- and psychographics, interested, and buying habits.
Assemble Your Toolkit
There are some incredible tools available to marketers these days and assembling the right combination can help you reach your KPIs and surpass your goals. It can definitely feel overwhelming, though.
To get started with your marketing toolkit, focus on these areas:
- Content creation
- Planning and execution
Gone are the days of needing Photoshop and Illustrator knowledge to create engaging content for your startup. Social media is visual, and to stand out you need to focus on images, design, and video. Video is one of the best ways to increase engagement, and it can be something as easy as a Boomerang.
Here are some of our favorite apps for social media content:
- Canva (design)
- Legend (turn photos into videos)
- Boomerang (mini videos)
- WordSwag (text over photo)
- Adobe Spark (graphics, web pages, and videos)
Once you create your content, you’ll need a way to manage and schedule it.
Planning and Managing Social Media Calendars
Some prefer third-party apps, while others stick to the native scheduling tools. There are advantages and drawbacks to both, specifically with Instagram.
Their API is notoriously hard to utilize, so there are not many reliable scheduling apps. Hootsuite recently announced their partnership with Instagram, which is a reliable option because it’s endorsed by Instagram and unlikely to change. (But it’s also hard to tell!)
These are our go-to tools for social media management and listening:
- Facebook Business Manager
- Ad Espresso
- Sprout Social
- Twitter for Business
It’s been rumored that posts through third-party apps on Facebook don’t get as much traction as those posted with Facebook’s own scheduling platform. Regardless, Facebook has become a pay-to-play platform, making a Facebook Ads budget necessary. This will expand your reach on this “rented” platform and is a low-cost yet high-reward advertising option for startups.
AdEspresso is a go-to for many marketers for Facebook Ads management, offering A/B testing and additional tools and resources to help you get the most out of your budget. (Facebook did recently introduce an easy A/B testing tool native to Facebook Ads that provides the same benefits.)
If you do choose to use a third-party scheduling platform, Hootsuite, Buffer, and Sprout Social are three of the best options. They each have their benefits, and its largely due to personal preference.
Twitter for Business offers a platform with scheduling and ads management, giving you full control over your feed. Schedule tweets when your audience is most active, without worrying about tweeting in the moment.
Hootsuite, Buffer, and Sprout Social all offer social listening, too, which can be a helpful addition to your social media arsenal.
Email Marketing for Startups
Nurturing your leads requires a delicate balance of remaining top of mind without irritating them. One of the best ways to do this is to create email automation. Email marketing gets you into inboxes and automating them helps you reach them at specific times. You can set up an email for when they join your list, one week after, one week after that, and so on.
These emails will contain helpful content, coupons, pieces of your brand story, and more to help entice your leads to become customers.
Some of the top email marketing platforms are:
Each of these vary in capabilities and cost, but they will all help you execute an engaging and enticing email marketing strategy for your startup.
Project Management Tools
If you don’t already have a project management tool in place, it’s time to do so. While this isn’t specifically marketing related, it’s an essential tool to have in place as your team grows. This is particularly true during product launches, because each team needs to be aware of others’ progress and if there are any issues.
When the marketing and product teams are communicating effectively and have tasks and files organized well, they can provide the other with relevant updates to ensure the launch is a success.
These are some of the top project management tools for startups:
Each of these tools offers their own unique workflow for teams, and what may work for another founder may not work for you. Utilize their free trials, request demos, and have your team involved in the feedback process to find the best one for your startup.
Gather Your Team
The best marketing comes from a united team. Working with a marketing agency provides the backup you need as a startup while working with your internal marketing team. (Whether that’s one person or more.) You’re focused on creating a product and scaling your company, and the last thing you want to consider is the best A/B test for Facebook Ads.
You innovate your product; we innovate your marketing. When you gather the right team, your startup will, well, start.
When hiring for an internal role, begin with your methodology. If you’re using inbound marketing, you want an inbound marketer on your team. If you want a Facebook Ads heavy product launch, choose something who demonstrates successful experience with the platform.
When hiring an agency, look at their current and past clients. You want an agency that you will enjoy working with and is within your budget, but you also want one experienced in your industry. Ask for case studies and use this to see if their methodology matches yours.
Hiring, whether for an internal role or an agency, is an investment. Make the right decision by focusing on matching your needs to their strengths.
Set Your Priorities
Sharing all messaging points at once can quickly become confusing for potential customers. To minimize this, set your priorities. If your product is launching in four months, use the next 30 days to set a 90-day plan to promote the launch. Focus your marketing strategies on this product, and the specific benefits you want to focus on.
Even corporations with large marketing budgets need to set priorities, because it makes the most efficient use of your budget. For startups with multiple products, we recommend focusing on one for a short time, then transitioning to the next. Use color blocking on Instagram for brand-enhancing, product-focused content that will stand out in a noisy space.
The caveat to this, though, is to incorporate brand awareness messaging throughout each month’s content. These ads, photos, and blog posts help give consumers an inside look at your company, which is particularly helpful for startups brand new to their industry.
Another way to prioritize is with the type of content you’re creating. Time and resources are limited, so once you determine your chosen messaging for the month, focus on the best types of content with the resources you have. If your product is part of a new industry, blogging could be more valuable than lifestyle photography for Instagram.
Implementing a Prioritized Approach to Marketing
We use this blog-focused approach for Evans Lane, an online outdoor furniture retailer. In order to maximize organic traffic to their website, we created a blogging strategy with product features, lifestyle pieces, and more. Each of these highlights products, giving customers insight into products they may like and how they can create an outdoor space they’ll love.
You can also choose to prioritize social media over long-form content. This is ideal for nutritional supplements and fashion, to name two, because you want to sell more than the product. You want to sell the lifestyle.
For Kitchen of Youth, we focused on an informational Facebook page, an aesthetically cohesive Instagram account, and a resourceful Pinterest presence. This helped us maximize the given budget and reach as many people as possible.
By setting the right priorities and planning accordingly, you can create an online presence your audience will engage with.
For your startup to succeed, you need to invest in the right marketing strategy. What works for one company will likely not work for you, which is why customization is so important throughout this process. Beginning with your messaging and methodology, focus on building a brand that connects with consumers, then bring it to life with the right tools and team while remembering the priorities you set to keep everything evolving smoothly.
By breaking it down then bringing it back together, you can create a marketing strategy for your startup that meets your needs and helps you accomplish your goals.
By Marc Apple
Marc Apple is recognized as a leader in the marketing industry and has 20+ years of experience helping businesses of all sizes improve their digital marketing. He specializes in website design, SEO, social media, and paid search programs. He is a frequent contributor to other marketing websites and speaks regularly about marketing to small business owners and startups. To learn about Marc and to contact him, visit his author bio page.
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