Marketing Lessons for Start-Ups

I had the pleasure of serving on the Marketing panel for a Start-up Forum yesterday in Portland sponsored by Launch Pad. Wouldn’t you know it- our 80 minute panel was cut down to 45 minutes. Ah, the trials and tribulations of marketing in a start-up. Well, here are my notes.
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1. How would you all define and describe what branding, marketing and PR mean to early stage start ups and how does this differ from more established companies?

It is more critical and more vital to get it right in a start-up. You are not always given a second chance to make a first impression. So spend time on defining your strategy, why are you better, why are you different. Then get out there. There is nothing worse than having a great idea and then having a competitor come in and take it away with marketing.

2. What do you think are the main 3 elements that every founder/entrepreneur in an early stage company needs to know from day one about brand and brand building?

A. It’s more important than you think. If people don’t know who and what you are why should they do business with you? Many founders have their degrees in fields beyond business and think of marketing as an expense. Imagine trying to get a job without a resume.

B. Vision: Establish who you are and what makes you different before you launch into your marketing. This is your first step because now whatever you communicate to your investors, employees and so forth starts to build your brand. 

C. Don’t just throw up a website. Do a little homework. Before you go external with your messaging find out what you could mean to prospects and how you stand up versus competition.

3. Logo, tagline, style guides, vision and mission statements. How important are these foundational elements? How do they impact an early stage company for the long term?

Get the Mission and Vision done first. Worry about your tagline last. 

4. Regardless of size and stage, what are three strategies you see as having timeless effectiveness in your field?

A. Establishing a superior and distinctive position for the company or brand that gives customers a compelling reason to purchase. Getting this right will always be timeless.

B. Making the tough choices about whom to target and not trying to be everything to everyone.

C. Doing research upfront to know what customers are thinking and needing and not just making flip decisions due to lack of funds.

5. What are three emerging strategies and trends that you see up and coming in your field? What about these will help early stage companies and what about them will hinder early stage companies?

A. The rise of digital marketing over the Internet and its ability to one day outspend traditional media. This means focusing everything on the internet with limited funds.

B. The demise of the importance of a company’s website due to the continued importance of Google. The company’s website is no longer the first place customers go to learn about that company. They go where Google takes them. Hence the importance of Social media and how it can no longer be ignored.

C. The demise of the traditional advertising agency and the emergence of the digital agency as the brand agency.

6. Can you leave us with one thing every early stage and idea stage company can do to increase the effectiveness of their Marketing, Branding or PR efforts on a shoestring?

Establish a focused Brand strategy upfront with clear priorities. Stick to this and don’t be easily swayed by opinions that keep coming in. The next thing is not to underestimate the importance of Marketing and not budget for it. Going cheap on the marketing typically yields cheap results. The good news is that everything is measurable.
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