Build a simple Marketing Structure to win customers
Issue 15 🪜: At early stage startup, (non)marketing lovers need to play more with simple marketing psychology to win customers & build a strong brand image.
Hey everyone👋, welcome to the 33rd newsletter.
I’ve recently joined a startup as a CMO. After talking to the founder, even after being in the market for 4 years, wasn’t able to solve their marketing problem. The product is great, is making enough, and has come along a long way as a bootstrapped startup but effective marketing is yet to be figured out.
After talking for almost a month now, going through the documents and current strategy, asking endless questions back and forth and trying to understand the founder’s vision. I feel like, not just them, most of the founders make a huge mistake regarding marketing at the early stage. In fact, I did it too. 😅
Though it’s true that early-stage startups don’t need growth marketing until they haven’t figured out the right distribution channel & aligned it with their product but they do require to spend enough time and have an adequate marketing strategy.
As you go, startups usually find the audience, market-fit, and definition as they discover themselves.
So, let’s begin with.
Keeping the work organized
This is quite important not only to know where you are going, what needs to be done but also when you’ll expand your team it will be easy for everyone to onboard and require less time to figure things out. It’s the quality that will help focus and create discipline from enabling effective go-to-market strategy.
Use a product management tool to track everything. Notion can be a great start, as it’s absolutely free for up to 5 members.
The more you are able to manage your work in the beginning, the less messy it will become in future. It will also increase your productivity and save time.
Once you know where you are, decide where you want to go - AKA set goals
Any marketing plan doesn’t start without knowing the goals or what is the Key performance indicator (KPI). With each product, I try to create minimum scope of the product where I do fewer experiments to get the results quickly and to keep the momentum going.
Set clear goals that are measurable. Say,
Getting 1000 users for free-tier plan
Having at least 50 paid users a month
Go as specific as you can, but don’t go far with numbers.
Understanding the users
To reach my goals, understanding the customers is the priority for creating any strategy. I will favourably narrow down the scope of the product and find a target-niche audience. So that I can easily find customers and ask them open-ended questions & also find the right distribution channel.
Once I start asking questions to customers I’ll find the main pain points with the problem and ultimately create a user mapping journey or more like a user story (it will give me a clear picture of why they need my product, how will they possibly find it and how will they stick to it).
So, now based on my skills, understanding and limited resources, I then create a go-to-market strategy. It’s not every dramatic but rather very simple. As we are still in the early stage and can only predict market/customer behaviour.
Here are some factors why I do this:
Along with understanding the customers, I like to find where they are most active.
After niche down the audience and platforms, it’s easy to stay focused at one place for maximum performance.
I can effectively and at maximum use my limited resources.
I focus on early adopters and understand:
How do they find the product?
What made them buy it?
If they came to the website, why didn’t they sign up?
What do they like and don’t like about the product?
I usually try to build connections with my early paying users. Though it’s immeasurable to understand the customer’s decision-making process, it can be assumed from the questions asked above. They like it enough to pay for it and will like to advocate about it. They will help me shape the product, build word-of-mouth and a long-term marketing strategy.
(*Remember distribution isn’t about the content but about the product itself.)
My go-to-market strategy
Whether I’m building a product for B2B or B2C market or working on other’s product, my beginning marketing strategy is usually the same because I still have to figure out more about users and areas that work in my favour. Once I have some understanding of my customers I focus on short-term and long-term strategies.
Here’s an approach that I usually take to understand which road to go:
I see the budget. To define how long I can wait until I start getting back from the customer or channel I invest time in.
If it takes me 10 days to get a client or 180 days to convert a user, I see if I can afford that much time or not.
If it takes a few days to convert then I spend 70% on short-term strategy & 30% on long-term strategy.
If it takes more than 5-6 months, I invest in a long term strategy.
I. Short-term strategy - This brings immediate results.
Short-term strategies are great for testing the water, how deep you can swim and how far and fast you can go. Change the strategy quickly if it isn’t working, as they mostly bring immediate results.
For any business model, outreach is the fastest way to be out there & most of the time - free. There are several ways to do it - reaching out to publications to feature your company or you, guest posting, getting interviewed on YouTube channels & Podcasts, DMing and emailing people to try the product.
For myself, I find this as a crucial strategy. It can get me enough sales or users immediate if the platform has a high audience reach. It’s okay if it’s not Forbes or similar but still something with enough monthly traffic. I’ve created a list of people and places to reach out for different projects (and reasons) which have a large audience reach.
Each month I try to add at least 10 show appearances through Podcasts, interviews, guest posts, features and mentions, etc.
Partnerships & ads
Though I never try partnerships and ads for the early-stage product, truly because there’s not much to offer. But for the brands that have some establishment, partnerships and ads can skyrocket the growth immediately.
Start building partnerships with big players in the industry or people who use the product that have some strong influence on the audience which will lead to faster & immense results.
II. Long-term strategy - Helps build the brand in long run.
One of my favourite. Most of the time, the hype is unplanned and when something goes viral it usually looks cool outside (which doesn’t last long) but doesn’t change a lot inside. Because you weren’t prepared with the next steps and people usually don’t like to miss out on things that are viral.
But if you plan hype from the beginning like rolling out limited access to your product for 100 people and see a great response. By now you’ve created demand and to fulfil that demand, you must be ready to onboard at least 1000-2000 people for the next round and build a waitlist to see how far it could have gone.
You’ll get some amazing results, excite people by making it exclusive for early adopters but all of these usually take a lot of time to implement.
Social media is a great run but not every platform is made for every business. Based on the customer understanding, by now, I have found which channel will work best for my company.
Growing it will take longer and it requires persistence and consistency. For my personal network, I prefer Twitter but, again, it’s a long-term strategy because you never know which tweet will go viral and when.
Content & SEO
Any type of content - YouTube, writing, podcasts - takes a long time to bring results. But it’s still worth it for every business type. In today’s time, most of the founders turn into content creators to educate people about their products and build a personal brand which effectively takes a long time. But content is the effective growth marketing strategy.
Building a community for brands should be a must. It doesn’t mean putting people in a group chat. It’s more about educating, strong communication, self-reliance, trust, and bringing people together and at the same time making it fun and generous. It’s really hard but such a rewarding strategy.
Communities create a place for you to work with other people not only to build your product but also to help build them. It takes time and dedication to keep showing up for your members with content to re-engage and flourish the growth.
Asking people to leave reviews or testimonies. This, most time, help build trust and play word-of-mouth for brands.
The new movement “build in public” helps brands build trust and a user base by showcasing the process of building products. It’s popular because it shows how the product is built and increase the credibility of the product.
Talk about your brand constantly, use the same one-liner everywhere - ads, videos, banner, etc - make it a habit & imprint the lines in the user’s mind. People start remembering the one-liner when talked repeatedly about it.
Once you’ve decided what tasks/strategy to take on, either do it yourself or delegate to experts.
Now, these are all like the building blocks for me. Once I have a structure, I just fill the blocks with what works best for the company. It almost works like a flywheel. As the company, product, customers and budget grow your marketing also grows, it never stops at a stage.
👋 PS: I’m Ritika founder, product marketer and advisor for early-stage startups, find more here or connect with her here. If you’re a first-time founder looking for curated resources, download here. If you enjoyed this post, read the past issues here. You can also promote your product in this newsletter.
A big thanks for reading & sharing!