Guiding a startup company to success is an uphill struggle no matter how great your ideas are. Great products and services deserve great marketing, and they can really struggle to find their places without it. Formulating a strong marketing plan is essential to launching your startup in the marketplace. Here are some tips for getting it right:
Start Studying Your Customers Early
As you may already know, one of the keys to successful marketing is positioning your products or services as ideal solutions to a problem your potential customers are struggling with. This is always a fruitful way to think of your marketing job, but you can get started well before you are ready to actually make sales.
A careful examination of your customer’s needs should accompany the polishing and prototyping that is going on as you move towards selling. Don’t assume that the same problems are out there or that the same people are struggling with them as when you first started development. Investigating your customers’ needs helps you aim your marketing plan at the right people and build effective tools for selling to them.
Build A Customer Persona
This is one of the most important steps in constructing your marketing plan. You need to carefully research your market and create an idealized, archetypal customer. This “customer persona” can and should be highly detailed. You need plenty of demographic and psychographic data in order to target your marketing accurately. Demographics are objective facts about customers, like their age, education, location, and income. Psychographics are the less-tangible characteristics, like interests, behaviors, and the problems described above.
Note that when you are first writing a marketing plan, it can be difficult or even impossible to gather complete information on your customers. After all, you are not even certain of who your customers are until you start selling! This is why your marketing plan needs to be a living document. You will come back to improve your customer persona repeatedly as you make sales and learn more about who is buying.
Take Careful Aim
Once you have gathered all the available information on who you want to sell to, the next job is figuring out how to do it. While the vast range of different marketing tools available to you is well beyond the scope of this brief treatment, you shouldn’t take any of your options off the table when you first craft your marketing plan.
Picking out your marketing strategies requires a little more research. You need to know where, when, and how your potential customers make buying decisions related to products and services in your niche. This is the critical point your marketing needs to hit.
Because it is difficult to collect comprehensive information while you are still in the planning phase, it is a good idea to build a certain amount of flexibility into your plan. Be prepared to shift strategies if new data challenges the initial assumptions you have made about your customers.
Ease Into Selling
As a startup, it is a virtual certainty that you will want to target early adopters. These are the risk-friendly customers who are willing to take a chance on an untried product or service. Early adopters may not share all of the values of the customers who come after them, but they are still your very best source of accurate customer information.
The early adopters who you do business with when you are first starting out have something to offer you that is infinitely more valuable than payment or publicity. They can give you genuine feedback regarding your products and services and tell you whether or not they are satisfied with their experience.
Any good marketing plan needs to include a fine-tuning period after you start selling to early adopters. Their feedback can dramatically alter your marketing strategy and in some cases, even the products you’re selling. Do not consider your plan complete until you have started receiving and responding to real customer feedback.
Every successful startup needs a unique marketing plan that reflects both what the company has to offer and who is positioned to buy it. That makes it difficult to say with accuracy what specific techniques might work for you. The general planning principles described here, though, should serve you well no matter what you intend to sell your customers.
Guest author Patrick Godknecht is a successful entrepreneur and business owner. He operates an online marketing agency, PDG World Marketing, which serves professionals, entrepreneurs, corporations and businesses, no matter how big or small.