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Crafting A Bulletproof Marketing Strategy for your Startup: My Experience Of Failed Startups

“Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought” -Sun Tzu

SunTzu Quote
Sun Tzu : One of the greatest military strategists

What’s with Startups and Success?

The ultimate success of your startup depends upon the awesomeness in your products. Period. What If I tell you success depends upon other factors too and not just on your product?

The above quote from Art of War is all about that success is pre-determined even before a battle begins. Similarly the success of your startup depends upon the things you do even before you launch your startup.

So You may loose a battle even before you start the fight. To make anything successful three things are prerequisite:

  • Proper planning
  • Preparing (acquiring) the resources and personnel to execute the plan
  • Executing the plan (The final Act)

Plans ! For My Startup?

A bad plan when executed properly may not yield the desired results; similarly a Good plan when executed improperly will do no good to the business.
Startups have fewer resources, limited funds and less time to get industry-validation so they are never in a position to survive any early on disasters and especially when its due to poor planning. Since startups have less backing when they fail so the chances of starting again are very lean in most cases. Thus a detailed marketing strategy is mandatory for a startup to avoid all fuck-ups at least in marketing the product.

If you don’t believe me then listen to this Ted Talk by Seth Godin about the story of Otto Rohwedder; the guy invented the ‘sliced bread’ perhaps greatest invention of his time and yet has to wait for 18 long years to taste success. Because the people (Wonder Breads) who planned, prepared the resources and executed the plan arrived 18 years later.

Let’s Start with a Marketing Plan

A good startup marketing plan must make sure that every step taken, every mouse click, every published word, in a nutshell every effort small or big has to be taken in such a way that it contributes to the overall success of the startup.
Now the problem is that the traditional marketing strategies do not seem to work. Internet and the Media have changed the whole game of marketing.
Trends are changing more rapidly than ever. What was trending a few months back (Gangnam Style) is now ancient; the things that are trending now (The Harlem Shake) will become antique very soon.

So we have to do more than making a traditional strategy and implementing standard marketing tactics.
“Think Different”

Start on a Solid Base: Don’t Commit the Stupid Mistake

It’s quite common for entrepreneurs to think that their product has a universal appeal and every last person on earth would want it. They are absorbed by an idea that the only thing that stands between a mass success and their idea is DISCOVERY.
“The moment the world discovers my idea, then the whole world will buy it”

The Ugly Truth

Let’s face it Mate! Only a small percentage of population is going to need your product and even fewer of them will ever buy it.

So why target the world and waste your efforts in making a product that everyone likes in the words of Airbnb Founder : “Make something that 100 people love rater than something that a million people kind of like”

So DON’T start by making a product for everyone and don’t even try to sell your product to everyone, for it is a waste of your startup’s time, money and efforts.

The Market’s Anatomy

“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.
~Sun Tzu, The Art Of War
Of course the same applies for the battleground.

Ask the following questions to understand, identify and choose you market better. These seven questions will help you in choosing your targeted Market:

1. Customers’ need:
How badly people want what you are offering?
Is there a NEED of your product?
If yes, then how much?
If not, then why Not?

2. Efficiency:
How efficiently your product is solving the cunsumers’ problems?
Or how efficiently you will be fulfilling their NEED?

3. Customer’s Analysis:
Will People Actually Buy?
Do they have the money to buy the product?
How much money is there in the market for your product?

4. Competitors Analysis:
How strong is the competition?
How saturated is the market?
How much market share you intend to capture?
What portion of the market in untouched by your competitors?

5. USPs:
Comparison of your USP (Unique selling proposition) with that of your competitors.
The edge that your product has over others’
The edge your marketing campaign will have.

6. Future of the Market:
How much is the long-term value of the market?
What is the market’s growth?
Will the consumption be far reaching or will it decline?

7. The Last question has to be this one
“Is This the Best Market for ME?”

If there are tons of companies doing what you want to do in your targeted market then it’s a waste of your time in spamming the market with another not-so-different product. After all, we live once then why waste it, try doing something different.

Now the Customers in the Market

Once the market is selected, it’s time to move ahead. This section is all about knowing your customers and understanding them and finding about your ideal customers.
As always the best way to identify your Ideal customers is to answer a few questions.

-Who is your Ideal Customer?

  • Is your ideal customer a male or a female?
  • What’s the age group of your prospective customers?
  • What is your ideal customers profession? Student or lawyer?

Etc..

Do not hesitate to answer these questions as precisely as you can. For example, my ideal targeted customer for this post is someone that is about to start a new business or in other words founding a startup.

– Where are the ideal customers located?
Very few companies actually can target the whole world as their Ideal customers’ geographic location. So define which area are you most likely to find most of your customers and try and get them by targeting that area.

Example: My horse’s products business targets customers owning horses and residing in USA. At the same time Shell and British petroleum target all the oil-distribution companies all over the world. Similarly your startup is going to be different. So define the geographical boundaries of your consumers.

– How will they try to find you If they try to find you?
This Question is all about Keywords. Define your keywords:

  • What are the keywords that your customers will use to search you?
  • What are the keywords that you need to associate your startup with?
  • What words can make it easier for your customers to identify you?
  • What words your customers can use to reach you?

Answer these questions diligently.

Choose a set of core keywords that exactly match your product or idea. Expand your list to add some secondary keywords. In the same time keep in mind to include long- tail keywords and low competition keywords for they are easy to rank high on search engines.
-How and where can you reach out to your customers?
Just find out more about where your Ideal customers spend their time.

  • What are the social Media platforms they are active on?
  • What are the things they like watching on youtube?
  • What are the websites they frequently visit?
  • Your customers preferred medium of contact for sales pitches?

Once you know this you can advertise to them at these platforms (I am not talking about Interruption Marketing or irritating advertisements). I am talking about intelligent marketing. Use them White Brain Cells inside your head and find ways to market your startup that is interesting to the customers. Remember:

“People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.” ~Simon Sinek

Customers don’t care about what you are selling? All they care about is why you made this thing that you are selling? What’s in it for them? Listen to this Ted talk by Simon Sinek.

Define Success Goals

The most important goal of your Marketing campaign is to make your startup successful. Achieving certain goals does this. So what is your success goal?

  • 500 signups in the first month,
  • 1000 visitors in a month
  • $25,000 revenue in the first quarter

After you have carefully set a goal, the very next step is to communicate this goal to your team.
Tip: Make sure that you set your goal and then not bring major changes to it.

Define Your Marketing Budget:

At the end it all comes down to: How much you can spend on your marketing? Set a budget of your marketing campaign. Initially allocate more money and resources to the channels that you think will bring most of your customers.

Review your marketing results and then revise your startup’s marketing budget based on the success that different channels are bringing. If your blog brings you 50% of your Customers then in the next month increase the budget and allocate 60% of your marketing budget to the Blog. Similarly allocate wisely the budget to various marketing channels.

Make a Marketing strategy considering your Budget and keeping your goals in mind.

After you have made your strategy the rest is up to you to make sure it’s implemented properly.

Marketing your startup before launch: The benefits

There are lots of benefits of marketing your startup before Launch.
Why an entrepreneur must market her/his startup even before launching it?

A great start from day 1 of launch
Your Idea Gets Industry and consumer validation early

Marketing and hazards Learnt in the beginning

Sshh…Don’t Market the Copy-Cat is Always Listening

There are certain cases in which a startup should NOT be marketed ‘before’ launch. If your startup falls under any of the following two categories then you should just keep it zip and not go out and tell the world about what you are doing?

First of Its Kind: You are doing something that no one has done ever before. So keep it zip and just tell them you are coming but not with what? In this case you can have a mysterious marketing campaign with a email-subcription option based launch page. LaunchRock can be used to make email collecting coming soon webpages for free. Another good idea is getting your upcoming secret startup covered by Press.

Easily Replicable: Your Product can be copied very easily. You lose all the advantage that the First-Mover gets. Remember, “Early bird gets the worm”. In this case you should take some marketing lessons from Hollywood moviemakers. I am serious. They make all the money from their product (movies), which is easily replicable, in the first few weeks of the launch. So that even if someone copies they always get the advantage of being the original!

Conclusion

Though a bad product may not be a success in spite of a great marketing strategy but a good product may be a failure due to a bad marketing strategy. So once you are ready with your idea or product, always invest some time and effort engineering the best possible marketing strategy.

[About the author: Adnan Akhtar (@adnanakhtar99) is the Lead Inbound Strategist for Eegro, Digital Marketing Agency. He also heads PR and Communications of DecideQuick, a Social media based decision making platform. He crusades fro startups and enviroment and speaks his minds on his blog]

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