There have been volumes written about marketing strategy for early stage startups. But with all the advice and information at your fingertips, even the best tactical approach and execution can still fail and often does. Reasons for this can vary. Sometimes you may have the wrong tactic for the market or the messaging and call to action is simply not compelling enough. You may even be failing because your tactics are out of step and could be better.
These days, everyone is smart enough to be measuring and testing to know when they fail, but there is a real cost to continue to tirelessly test and turn away from failing, yet perfectly executed tactics. We all need to stay up on how best to execute, but tactical expertise by itself won’t lead to an outstanding marketing and sales engine for your business. Even worse, beginning your marketing plan with a tactical plan can be a monumental waste of time, if not money.
Identifying and segmenting your target market
Before implementing your tactical plan, you‘ll need to figure out who your immediate customers are or those who you think you can acquire within the next few months. Understanding what makes them unique and why they are your best target market will enable you to have greater overall success.
Companies who make general assumptions on what segments to target are doing themselves a disservice.
For example, just to target small and mid-sized businesses or companies in the financial services sector will usually bring about ineffective tactics and lame response rates. More detailed criteria are necessary. The more specific, the better your results can be. For example it’s much more effective if a startup were to target retailers with more than 25 stores in the U.S., of which all have a significant online component or maybe even small businesses with more than 10 employees in Canada that sell a service, not a product, and don’t have a full-time office administrator.
This detailed segmentation leads to specific tactics to test with a greater prospect of success. Getting on top of this will require you to speak to your customers. Surveys and other data can give you information on what your potential customers are doing but not why they are doing it. Interviews can take time and doing it effectively will take some skill which can be honed over time. Also, it is important to remember that interviews should not be focused on selling a solution but rather understanding more about problems your solution will address. Later in the process and with consent, you can focus on selling the customer.
Learning about the Buying Process
The next bit of information you’ll need in designing an effective marketing plan is a thorough understanding of your target customer’s buying process. Regardless of the purchase, there are specific steps customers take depending on needs at different times. Sometimes potential customers that don’t know that a category of solution exists in the market need to be made aware of what they are missing. In contrast, some customers will not need that kind of help but would benefit in knowing about how competing solutions are different. Understanding where the obstacles are in the buying process for potential targets and addressing actions to overcome them can be significant in the development of an effective marketing strategy.
Making wrong assumptions
Finally, a big mistake that many startups continue to make is moving on to new tactics without really understanding why the ones used in the first place failed. Perhaps you decided to put together an email campaign with a call to action for your potential target to register to download a piece of content. The response was less than expected and although, the open rate was good, the click-through rate was horrible. Basically, you made an assumption about your target customer that led you to think your tactic would work, but it didn’t. Somewhere your assumption was wrong. Could it be the copy you wrote did not appeal to your prospects? Were you under the impression, the content you were offering them was important, but it turned out, it wasn’t? Why do you think this was the case? What, perhaps were these prospects expecting when they opened the email?
The answers to these questions will likely affect every tactic you employ and could help determine a more effective strategy, if not a better understanding of what factors to consider when trying to reach prospective customers.