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5 Marketing Must-Haves to Accelerate Growth for Your Startup

Growth requires a consistent investment in marketing. We surveyed 50+ startups and here are the 5 marketing must-haves.
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Are you ready to launch your product? Have you identified a differentiated value to a clearly defined target audience? So, what’s next?

Accelerating growth requires a consistent investment in marketing your products and services.  Read on for the 5 marketing must-haves that would be essential in accelerating growth for your startup!


1. Brand Identity


It is very important to establish a strong brand as this becomes one of the most critical differentiations of your business from competitors. For example, the current three most valuable brands in the world – Amazon, Apple, and Google are worth close to $1 trillion. Among startup founders this has consistently been the area of least investment when it comes to marketing. Why? Because most startup founders do not understand nor really believe that brand correlates to the long-term value and success of their business. The most common reason why founders don't invest in their brand is because they “cannot track brand ROI”. We have seen CMOs at multi-million dollar companies demote brand leaders, because the CMO didn't believe in the power of the brand. 


But what makes up a brand? It is definitely more than just your logo and a swanky color palette. A comprehensive brand strategy includes clearly defined and distinct components like your brand heart (i.e. mission, vision, values, purpose), brand messaging, tagline, brand tone, brand voice, visual identity (logo, style, typography, colors, iconography, etc.). Everything that your entire startup does from product, marketing, sales, to internal culture, hiring, etc. needs to be executed in a way that aligns to your entire brand identity. Your overall brand also needs to be catchy and appealing so that it will build effective recall among your target audiences. 


Even your employees can contribute significantly in building brand identity; every one of them should have a solid understanding of what your brand is all about so they can push for it on the ground. They must be consistent in how they market your products and services to customers – it is only through intensive and hands-on training that you and your team can accomplish this.


2. Elevator Pitch


An elevator pitch is a short and punchy synopsis of your products, services, and company that lets a potential client or investor grasp the idea of what your business or project is about in a matter of seconds. It’s called an elevator pitch because the average elevator trip takes about 20-30 seconds – within this time frame, you should be able to immediately spark interest in a prospective customer with the key details you’ll provide them.


A good elevator pitch is succinct, authentic, compelling, and memorable. In those few seconds, your speech must be interesting enough for a prospect to set another meeting with you. That’s why you should also state your unique selling proposition or USP – your competitive edge among other brands. Your USP tells customers what you have that other brands don’t, so it has to be specific and convincing even when presented in 30 seconds. For example, instead of vaguely saying, “our products are specially designed to provide customers with only the best marketing tools”, you may say “our marketing tools are the only ones out there that can drive up to 60% of revenue to your company”. Make sure to clearly identify your goals, explain what your brand is and how customers can benefit from it, state your USP, and engage the client with an open-ended question.


Elevator pitches are incredibly helpful especially if there are tons of similar products or services out there and you want to establish what differentiates yours from that of your competitors. Also remember that practice is key – after putting all the elements together, rehearse your speech in front of a mirror or even your team until it sounds more conversational and natural.


3. Promotional Tools


What can accelerate growth for your startup? Promotion! Raising awareness and building demand for your product is key to accelerate growth.  There are many ways on how to promote your products – from sales enablement materials such as a compelling website, one-pagers, sales flyers, introduction sales decks, and deep dive sales decks, to  digital tools such as social media, email marketing, virtual events, paid advertising and more.


In this day and age where people mostly rely on digital channels  for information, startups  are now promoting more and more through digital media to reach more of their target audiences. If done right, your promotional  marketing tools will drive  revenue and make your sales efforts pay off. As a startup you cannot afford a repertoire of promotional tools so you have to constantly make trade-off decisions as founders and prioritize the tools that will have the greatest impact on your top line growth. 


Here are the three absolute must-have promotional tools to drive awareness and demand when you are resource-constrained:

  1. Website and social media channels - the bare minimum; must be clear, compelling to convert window-shoppers into engaged customers over time
  2. Sales enablement tools - sales pitch deck, sales flyers and brochures, product one-pagers.
  3. Email marketing - to capture and engage with your audience, prioritize hand raisers to sales


One of the things that should be on top of your list is your official website. Your website should be compelling , punchy, has a simple and intuitive user experience, and most importantly has a clear messaging so that your target audience can, within 5 seconds, grasp what you do and how you can help them. If your website doesn’t have those components, you won’t be able to drive traffic to it or  increase conversions that can generate sales and bring in customers. Some amazing, startup-friendly website tools are Webflow, Squarespace, Wix, and Tilda that will enable you to build your website using pre-defined templates, regardless whether you have coding knowledge or none. 


Moreover, your website should be optimized specifically for your target audience, simply because what works for one prospective customer may not work for others. This is also to set a limit to the conversions and traffic your page will receive. Your calls to action should be strategically placed on your website so when traffic starts pouring in, prospects will be redirected to your product sites or sign up to your email lists. Another important factor is your website’s load speed – it can contribute significantly to your bounce rate, or the rate at which customers leave your website after waiting for a certain amount of time. A 1-3-second waiting time equates to a 32% rise in your bounce rate. Waiting for up to 5 seconds increases bounce rate to 90%, and 10 seconds to 123%. Tools such as Google Analytics can  measure your page’s overall load time, and provide additional reports about your download times, connection times, and a lot more.


Apart from your website, social media marketing will help you reach and engage your target audiences. Utilizing your social media platforms by creating fun, quality content is one surefire way of boosting your brand online and increasing page traffic which then translates to sales. Social media management tools such as Buffer, Hootsuite, and MeetEdgar let you queue posts based on your preferred time and day so you can focus on creating great content without worrying about not posting on time. Following a consistent content calendar will ensure fresh material is being posted regularly and paced well not only for your social media accounts, but also for other platforms such as blogs and forums.


Social networking sites also let you post ads and keep track of them, and enable you to easily set demographics for targeted advertising. On Facebook and Instagram for example, once you’ve set up a business profile, you now have the option to set up and run ads. You can select the age range of your target audience, how long the ads will run, and control your budget for ad spending. It also lets you monitor ad engagement and view reports on campaign stats.


To complement your website you also need sales enablement tools such as pitch decks, one pagers, product one pagers and proposal templates to enable your team, or yourself, to have compelling conversations with potential prospects. We see an error in this all the time – the pitch decks are too long, confusing, have too many words on one page, not on brand, don't highlight value proposition, or don't provide any compelling reasons of why the prospect should pay for your product.

"You want to be the Advil, not the Vitamin" by Mariya Finkelshteyn, Founder of Orchid Agency

when it comes to your sales enablement content. That mends your positioning and storytelling needs to maniacally focus on how you will solve your prospects' biggest pain points. If the storyline is more value-add, then >50% of the prospects will not have a sense of urgency nor the budget to buy your products. 


4. MVP Lifecycle Marketing 

Before we go into other specifics, let’s first define lifecycle marketing. An audience lifecycle, also known as the purchase funnel, involves the stages a customer goes through that begins with purchasing the product and ends when the customer stops using it. The stages of the customer lifecycle are as follows:


From the image above, you can see that customers would first know all about your product or service (awareness) and build a relationship with your brand (engagement). They would then assess whether the product would be a good fit for their needs or not (evaluation). If yes, the customer would proceed to buying the product (purchase). The post-purchase stage is when the customer receives product offerings and promotions to encourage them to re-purchase the product. The customer will promote the products through word of mouth if they had a good experience with it (advocacy), inviting more potential customers in the process who will then start a new cycle.


Startups should remember that this is called a cycle for a reason – it doesn’t stop when a customer avails of your product. Customers have to be continuously engaged and informed for them to be your loyal customers. This is where email marketing comes into play. Targeted email marketing lets you build a stronger relationship with your customers and retains them in the long run. Encourage them to refer family members or friends through email in exchange for loyalty points or rewards. You can even go as far as asking your most loyal customers to write a blog post or two about your brand, or share your brand collaterals in their social media pages for more traction.


So how do you actually execute lifecycle marketing and what kind of tools are required during the early stage of your startup journey? A solid marketing automation platform (MAP) that would best suit your company’s go-to-market motion and long-term growth requirements . MAPs allow you to easily and successfully execute campaigns across the entire lifecycle marketing journey, generate more leads, solidify your relationship with clients, gather customer insights, and personalize your content to match customer data. Highly popular platforms such as Pardot and Hubspot are great to consider. 



Now let’s go back to your funnel and how we would measure performance from its top to bottom. First you need to set and define clear KPIs that align with your product and buyers journey. Over 15 years, we have guided organizations to pressure-test their KPIs and one thing is clear – there is a lot of internal alignment and defining that needs to be done to successfully establish and track KPIs. Example above are our recommended best practices for setting and defining KPIs at any B2B startup  Based on the diagram above:

  1. Cold leads need the utmost handling since these are the prospects who have not engaged with your brand in the past or have cut off ties because of a negative experience.  
  2. Warm leads are prospects who have shown interest in your product and have taken steps to actually engage with your brand such as signing up to promotional emails, filling out order forms, and so on. 
  3. Marketing qualified leads (MQL) are prospects that have demonstrated multiple, engaging behaviors (such as registered for the webinar, attended webinar, read 5 blogs, etc.) over a short period of time (i.e. the last 30 days). 
  4. Sales qualified leads (SQL) are ready to speak with your inside sales team, or the founder who plays this role at the very early stage of the business. What makes an SQL qualified for an opportunity? One option is to implement a sales qualification framework used to assess whether a prospect would be a good match for your product based on their needs and purchasing power. As a bare minimum, you should understand the following 4 criteria before deciding if something is an opportunity: 


  1. Budget – How much is the prospect willing to spend?
  2. Authority – Who is involved in the decision-making?
  3. Need – What specific problem does the prospect have that the product will solve?
  4. Timeline – Does the prospect need the product urgently?


Salespeople often ask questions for each of the 4 categories, but a common mistake is that it almost sounds like an interrogation rather than a two-way dialogue. Not listening to the prospect’s concerns and not letting them ask their own questions may tick them off and keep them from actually closing a deal with you. A rule of thumb is to avoid making it sound too rehearsed – give the prospect an opportunity to respond and ask for clarifications about your product or service.


5. An Experienced Marketing Advisor

What if you’ve already exhausted all resources in coming up with a fool-proof marketing strategy, but you still end up falling short? Alternatively, you may not know where to start or you would rather focus on your super power versus learning all these marketing 101 components. What do you do? Maybe it’s time to consult a marketing expert for advice. 


Startups are often too focused in accelerating growth for their business despite not having access to expertise nor resources. If your startup needs help even with basic marketing concepts, it’s best to seek the assistance of an expert who can help you rebuild your marketing framework from the ground up. How do you know what to prioritize? Is it the tools, website, marketing automation system or is it the sales deck, messaging, positioning? Where do you start? What do you do next? How will you manage this plus the other 3-4 jobs an average founder is doing on a daily basis? This is where an experienced marketing advisor could help in taking the workload of the founders, or complement with strategy to an existing junior resource, and build out a tailored plan of actionable activities and milestones which are aligned with the goals of the business – revenue and growth! 


Need sound advice?

A Marketing Advisor will help you craft sturdy marketing goals and eventually translate them to campaign plans, successfully gaining you qualified leads and guarantee growth as you go along. The flexibility of an advisor model comparative to a full-time hire is very favorable to startups. An advisor doesn't come with a $250K/year price tag like a full-time hire. This is a good one for startups as you will get the best of both worlds – a highly qualified expert, at a fraction of the price will provide concrete and relevant marketing strategies, plans, and execution to accelerate growth, and drive revenue while not adding substantial overhead costs to your growing burn rate. 


This is where our services can be useful to you – we offer expert marketing advice while still considering your standing as a startup company. If you want to know more about how we help startups gain momentum even in their early stages, contact us today!