Marketing is one of the most important considerations for long-term business growth, but many startups and new businesses struggle with it. Some have trouble initiating a strategy or making it successful, while others choose to avoid marketing altogether—a move that ultimately hurts their potential to succeed.
So why is it that marketing is such a tough challenge for new business owners, and what can you do to overcome it?
The Key Challenges of Marketing
Startups and inexperienced business owners usually pinpoint some combination of these obstacles as standing in their way:
- Resource allocation. No marketing campaign can succeed unless it’s driven by a formal strategy and executed by experienced professionals. Most startups are working with a bare-bones team, and won’t have the expertise or workforce necessary to make a campaign successful.
- Costs. Marketing and advertising can also be expensive, especially if you’re trying to compete with nationally dominant competitors. The initial costs can strain your already-stretched startup budget, and if you don’t yet have a stream of revenue from clients, it’s even more stressful.
- Historical data. The best marketing campaigns are based on evidence you have from objective data—like how your campaigns have performed in the past and your customers’ preferences. Startups have little to no data with which they can plan a campaign.
- Changing landscapes. Few startups strictly adhere to their initial business plans. Instead, as they gain more information and experience, they adapt. They change their products, their brands, and their overall strategies, which can make it extraordinarily hard to plan a consistent marketing approach.
Tips for New CEOs
New CEOs can compensate for these weaknesses with a few important strategies:
- Start with something flexible. The best marketing strategy for a new startup is an adaptable one, since you won’t know exactly how your needs will change in the future. That’s why SEO for startups is such an effective strategy. Search engine optimization (SEO) gives you a framework that you can optimize for almost any goal, whether it’s generating more inbound traffic, improving your brand visibility, or even optimizing for conversions.
- Focus on ROI, not costs. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the price tag of certain marketing strategies, but you’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re scared by the costs. Instead of purely basing your decision on the costs of a given strategy, look at the return on investment (ROI). Even a high-cost strategy can be worth pursuing if it still generates more revenue than it costs to execute.
- Lean on agencies and consultants. Hiring an in-house team is both expensive and time-consuming, but at the same time, you need dedicated experts to help you plan and manage your strategy. The solution for many startups is to rely on formal marketing agencies and experienced consultants; they still aren’t cheap, but they will hold themselves accountable to get you the results you need.
- Experiment quickly. You won’t have much data on which to base your marketing decisions, so the best way to get it quickly is to experiment. Dabble in many different marketing strategies, and tinker with many variations on your branding, your designs, and your copywriting. The earlier you engage in these rapid-fire experiments, the more runway you’ll have for your bigger, longer-term campaigns. You’ll also have an objective foundation on which to build your marketing expectations.
- Use multiple channels. Relying on just one strategy is a bad idea, even if it seems like it’s objectively the “best.” That’s because every strategy has inherent strengths and weaknesses, and if you put all your proverbial eggs in one basket, it could end up hurting you. Use multiple channels, like content marketing, SEO, social media, and paid advertising, at once, even if it means investing less in each channel.
- Talk to customers directly. It’s good to brainstorm about your target demographics and use market research to learn more about them, but you may still find yourself with false assumptions and expectations. Use focus groups and surveys to talk directly with your customers as often as possible, and learn firsthand about what they want to see.
- Disproportionately value permanent assets. Some marketing strategies are ethereal, only in circulation for a finite period of time. When possible, favor marketing strategies that allow you to develop more permanent assets, like whitepapers or running email lists; they tend to have a much higher ROI over the course of your startup’s growth.
These approaches allow you to overcome the inherent challenges of marketing a startup you’ve built from scratch. This is still daunting territory, and your first marketing campaign will be far from perfect, but you’ll establish enough of a footing to get the momentum you need to succeed.
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