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Apr 11th, 2013 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

From the Marketing Dissenter — Is Your Start-up Marketing like a Start-up?

My guess is — not really. I’m not going to tell you what marketing mix is right for you, but there are a few basic lessons that apply when it comes to marketing any start-up.

Embrace good is good enough

Somehow when a product is ready to market, folks freeze, and won’t ship until the ‘marketing’ is perfect. And, this will be the certain death of you. Believe me, you can and will eventually change everything: your app or website design, the messaging, even your name, but you won’t have a chance unless you get yourself out there.

Now, whatever you launch still needs to be good. I said good, not perfect. Don’t have a designer at hand? Check out sites such as 99 Designs, or Squarespace. And when it comes to your name and messaging, why not ask 20 people in your network, or even in the queue at Starbucks? You will always be evolving your marketing (it’s a living thing); but in the beginning you can get very far asking for advice from a small pool. The important thing is to get the ball rolling.

Don’t boil the ocean

Who is your customer? It can’t be everyone. You must choose. By focusing on a core audience you can focus your resource and energy. Ideally, it will be a group who are super-connectors and influencers who will love what you do — and then tell others.

Presumably when you started to build your product this was the audience you had in mind, the one whose problem you were solving. It’s tempting to want to market to (and build features for) several different audiences and widen your prospect pool, but doing that will actually dilute your appeal.

Start with a clear customer segment, and set out to own it. Then you can look to grow the pie.

Choose wisely and be fast

Whilst you are small, you can be: incredibly agile, react to the market and capitalize on trends. This is your advantage as a startup. But, you only have so much time — so you need to choose wisely. Resist the urge to do everything.

Social media is an area which I love to point out to start-ups. Why have a presence on five different social sites? Are you managing all of them (well)? Is that where your core audience are engaging (see point 2)? This is the trap of believing you need to do everything.

You can play where bigger brands cannot, and you can capitalize if you are fast. But you can only do that if you haven’t spread yourself too thin. Do a few key things really well.

Experiment, Test, Learn

Your product / service is new, and you don’t yet know what’s going to really work in terms of marketing. So you must try often. Test often. Learn, and then try again.

Growth hacking has become all the rage, and it’s easy to see why. Take your website for example, you can do a lot to optimize sign ups or your checkout process. That action might yield greater conversions than any social media / ad campaign.

Every company is different, and this is your journey, so you must be open to experiment with new ways of reaching and engaging your users. You have to find the best path for you, and that will take time and creativity. If there’s no room for experimentation, there will be no innovation.

You must follow the golden rule though: Don’t do it, if you can’t measure it. Your time and resources are limited, so don’t waste them.

As you’ve probably guessed marketing your start-up, sounds a lot like lean development. No surprises there. So don’t only apply it to building your product, start applying it to marketing today!

Jane Finette is a Marketing Dissenter — follow her @janefinette

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