When young companies are still finding their footing and trying to gain sales and customer traction, there’s a common tendency to fall prey to shiny object syndrome ('SOS') when it comes to the marketing side of operating the business. Well established companies can also wind up effectively chasing their tail as well with short-sighted campaigns or strategies, but startups are especially vulnerable to moving from one buzzed-about tactic to the next.
One month it’s an all-out blogging blitz that’s going to bring customers running through the door. Two weeks later, the magic comes from costly video content. Then it’s decided that next quarter social media and pay-per-click will work together to generate all the inbound sales leads the team can handle.
Just reading that should be enough to cause dizziness for any tech startup founder or investor. So many different course changes so quickly give companies suffering from SOS no chance to effectively evaluate, let alone gain expertise in the marketing moves they’re executing, and no system to capture and analyze long-term data on what works - and, more importantly, what doesn’t.
The antidote to SOS is creating a marketing system built around key questions and collecting the data to gradually and incrementally zero in on the best moves to make.
THE BIG QUESTIONS
Successful marketing starts with knowing exactly who your customers are, what problems they face and what your company can do to make their pain go away. This is often referred to as creating your buyer persona, but in practical terms this is simply taking the time to think deeply about and define the following:
What does our company do? Simple enough; what’s the product or service we offer that creates a unique value proposition?
Why do we do it? It might not seem apparent at first, but the motivation to create your market offering will more than likely match up in some way with the needs your ideal customers have. Find your why, and you’ll know your market to an astonishing degree.
Who do we do it for? The absolute wrong answer here is “anyone who will buy it.” Try to please everyone and you’ll please no one. Get specific on the industry, demographics and motivations of the customers most likely to need what you offer. And go deep enough so you know who their customers are, to learn even more about what they’re trying to accomplish to be successful.
Why is it good? It’s important to remember the ‘benefits, not features’ adage here. Come up with the ways your company will make a customer’s life better. For example, a homeowner doesn’t care about the inner workings of a remote start pool cleaner, but would love to know they can eliminate the hassle of skimming their pool everyday, and can keep it clean without setting foot outside the house.
What can we prove to our customers? Or, put another way, how can your customer see you’ve made good on your promise? If not immediately, then as soon after purchase as possible you want to be measurably solving problems and making a positive difference in the lives of anyone your company touches. In addition to building customer loyalty, this makes it easy for your buyers to recommend you to new customers.
These may seem too preliminary at first, but drilling deep to answer these questions helps you truly know your customers. You’ll also learn important things about your company that might’ve been overlooked in the rush to create your product and get moving. Making sure early on that you align with the people or companies buying what you’re selling will save wasted time and budget on marketing to the wrong audience.
HOW TO SHOW OFF YOUR BUSINESS
Once you’ve identified the customer targets it’s time to assemble the right assets to reach and engage them. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for which B2B marketing content works best, but the most universal are case studies, white papers, testimonials, video, blogs and other online content, and consistent use of social media content. And the devil is in the details here, because inconsistencies in tone and message, or even color schemes that aren’t universal across all your materials, will harm your image at every turn. Having a qualified outside party run a simple brand audit of all your logos, tag lines, digital properties and content tone, pitch and taxonomy is a great investment.
It’s important to note here that everything won’t be perfect right out of the gate. But building in a consistent plan with a system to measure results – something we’ll explore in more depth in an upcoming post – will make it possible to execute and regularly measure performance so you can make improvements consistently. A common symptom of SOS is what’s commonly described as the ‘Ready. Fire. Aim,’ which wastes your ammo (i.e. budget...) and probably makes a big mess in the process.
For startup founders under pressure to deliver results for their investors it’s understandable – but not excusable – that SOS becomes their default way of handling marketing in the midst of countless other operational demands. But the results speak for themselves; building a practical strategy based on knowing your customers and precisely how to deliver the messages they want to hear, gives a startup the best chance to accelerate growth in an intentional, successful and scalable way.
Our roots go back to the dotcom boom days, when our founder worked with Silicon Valley VC's and their hottest startups. From this experience was born the inspiration to form Sellerant in 2007, based in Austin, TX. We've been helping innovative startups scale, pivot or fail faster with less cost, risk and burden ever since.
We love to help founders and investors all over the world. Drop us a note to firstname.lastname@example.org or call +1-512-861-8100 and let us know how we can help you.
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