If you want your start up business to succeed then the marketing, sales strategy and launch of your product or service needs to be done right. The work doesn’t stop with securing angel investors or venture capital...
Raising your start up business profile
Business start up funding is critical but without a route to market all your hard work will be for nothing.
Whatever type of business idea you have in mind it will be of little value unless you can reach prospective customers. No matter your business model, every small business needs to reach its audience.
All Startups are different
The is no simple guide for starting a business. A start up is a fluid and fast changing phase of enterise development. The ideas you start with can and should change over time as your learn more and adapt you plan according to lessons learnt.
It you are reading this article then we assume that your have in place the right team of founders, funding and legals to give you the confidence of launching your venture.
We take it for granted that your product or service solves a problem and that you have done your homework. By now you will have a business plan, cash flow projections and identification of premises all in place.
Perhaps most importantly - you will have developed a can-do entrepreneur mindset. You understand that there will be long days and obstacles along the way. You are ready for anything and prepared to be challenged and to adapt your thinking as new facts and insights come to light.
Online business including online retailer enterprises require a different approach to high street retailers or those operating from office space. Your launch strategy needs to be adapted to your target audience. Different businesses require different approaches. A key lesson that needs to be learnt is getting to get to grips with marketing.It's not rocket science - it's all about developing, promoting and selling your product or service.
Setting up a business is a marathon rather than a sprint so whether you intend to work from home, work full time or part time it’s a good idea to start thinking about what it will take to attract clients.
Ideally you should have tested your product long before you think about launching. Perhaps you have tried your minimum viable product out on customers and listening carefully to their feedback. In your are staritng a food business you will have traded from a pop-up shop, farmers market or food stall so that you can test your menuu on paying customers.
Let’s assume you are well progressed in your intentions to start a business. You know how to raise the finance and have long term ideas for your enterprise including a high level business plan. If so then it’s time to start thinking about how you will get your startup off the ground.
The key here is that you are well prepared. That you have tested assumptions and challenged your ideas in the fire of customer feedback. If you have done all thes ethings you can start to consider that exciting day when you launch for real.
Getting your business off the ground
Understanding marketing is a must if you want to succeed in business, but you will have to be clear on what you want to communicate. Here's our quick take on how to get your message over to customers if you want to give your new business a chance of success.
Start up checklist
Sales and marketing for a new enterprise is a big subject and one that you could spend years studying. It's all about getting your message out there. Use marketing to establish your brand and get it in front of people who want to buy.
Years ago, marketing was a costly affair meaning that only companies with big budgets could use mass marketing. But the internet has changed all that, and you can use a cost-effective marketing strategy to boost sales, retain customers and compete in a fierce marketplace where everyone is vying for customer attention.
We have divided launch activity into ten easy to remember steps as outlined in the image below.
1. Market Research for new enterprise
Never under-estimate the importance of this step. You will need to be an absolute expert on your subject matter and chosen market. It’s a good idea to use exhaustive market research to test your business ideas and improve your systems and market offer.
Take time out to analyse your brand and evaluate competitors. Most importantly of all- market research will help you to identify the key section of the public most likely to buy from you and what their behaviours and buying habits are.
2. Create a brand for your new business
People don’t usually buy a “product”, they buy into the entire trip- into everything you say about your brand and how you go about communicating your values, your offer and their reasons for believing in you. Your brand should capture the essence of your enterprise.
Consider your USPs, your vision, the benefits you will offer customers and what you stand for. Put yourself in your customer's shoes and ask the question; “what is in this for me?”. What does your brand say about your venture? Areas to address include logo, fonts, straplines, style, letterheads and company cards, the look and feel of your site, how you write copy and the overall impression of your venture, including shopfronts, signage and office design.
3. Routes to market for your fledgling business
When we talk about channel marketing we need to think about the segment we are focused on based on our market research. What communication channels do your competition or customers use? Are there particular websites they favour or frequent?
Be careful not to spend all your time prowling about a platform like LinkedIn only to realise that your buying audience just doesn’t hang out there. Think free (social media) versus paid-for routes to market. Can you afford newspaper or specialist magazine advertising?
4. Your marketing plan
Just like your business plan you can spend too much time on this and not enough “doing”. Having said that we firmly believe that having a game plan is good company practice. If nothing else, you will be able to analyse your results and tweak your plan. Think about your pricing and positioning in the market, set yourself some goals and make sure you monitor results!
5. Your website
No debate- a website these days is a must if you are serious about business. You can create a basic website for free, or pay a few quid a month to have one hosted. Building a site yourself is a steep learning curve but it’s made easier by the fact that there are loads of sites offering tutorials and lessons on how to create a professional site.
A word of warning- creating a site can take time. Make sure you don’t “over-design” it, keep it up to date and remember that a site without SEO (search engine optimisation) is like a bird without wings.
6. Search engine optimisation
This is the dark art that will catapult your web presence from obscurity into the light. Search engine optimisation or SEO as it is known, is complex and takes time to do well. SEO is what determines how well you rank in search engines and is made harder by the fact that Google and the other search engines don’t explain exactly how their algorithms work.
There are many hundreds of algorithms (codes) used for just one search on a search engine. The main things to bear in mind are: good clean code, updated links, links from authoritative sites to your own and keeping your content updated with fresh material. Read up on keywords and their importance. It’s a big subject but if you start with the basics you will achieve results and knowledge over time.
7. Social Media
The importance of your website, SEO and Social Media presence are all connected. Your marketing strategy needs to be seamless and consistent. Your chief challenge is to create fresh, original content that people find interesting.
People devour content at a fast pace and creating it to a sufficiently high standard can be a challenge, even for larger organisations. Our advice is to create less content that is more detailed and of a higher quality rather than churning our mediocre content. Decide what you can reasonably sustain and then stick to it. Keep it simple to start with so that you can maintain momentum.
8. Email Marketing
To use email marketing effectively you will need lists of contacts to mail and to collect those you will need to whet their appetite with something in exchange - like interesting or informative contentor information they can use for their benefit. Email marketing is low-cost and you can buy lists, but be careful as many are of poor quality. Make sure you segment your market effectively.
There are literally hundreds of different platforms to choose from when it comes to advertising and if you want quick results you must pay. YouTube videos ads, Facebook Ads, Google AdWords and LinkedIn are just some examples. Don’t forget to consider local newspapers, trade shows or events and specialist periodicals. Your activity will depend on budget so you will need to get to grips with costs such as CPA (cost per action), PPC (pay per click) and CPM (cost per thousand people who see your advert).
10. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing was made for startups. Promote your company on other people’s websites enables you to reach far more people.
Remember the affiliate will take a cut of the proceeds so make sure the financials stack up for you. A 20-30% commission is not unusual. You will need to create banner ads, videos and landing pages to make this work.
Launching your business
Once you have all of the jigsaw pieces in place for making your target audience aware of your service then it’s time to think about starting with a bang. Will you host a launch party for new client attraction? What kind of advertising and social media campaigns will you run during your launch to promote your startup?
Sales and marketing are the key to unlocking your success. Apply plenty of thought and research to deciding which strategy will work best for you.
The list above isn’t exhaustive; there is PR (Public Relations), event marketing & direct marketing to consider too. We’ll be sharing more detailed insights on sales for start ups later.
Whatever you do, make sure your marketing content is error free, consistent and communicates clearly exactly what it is that you offer. When it comes to effective marketing it is important that you think carefully about stakeholders and how to manage them. to find our more read our article on Mendelow's matrix for startups