Building a startup marketing strategy: 5 expert opinions

Marketing in today’s world has become so convoluted and intricate that it is easy to see why some business owners barely even bother with it.

Between social media, blogging, email, networking, and pay-per-click, there are so many different mouths to feed and beyond that, so many competitors fighting for their precious time and money.

The famous saying is that most entrepreneurs spend too much time working in their business instead of working on their business.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations, especially early on, but it’s important to realize the effect that marketing can have when done correctly. It seems like a conundrum, you have to market yourself to make more money, but you have to spend money to market yourself.

We broke down a marketing strategy into the important components and have a few expert opinions for your consideration.

Targeting

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Defining your target demographic is the starting point for any entrepreneur that wants to find success. Too many businesses pursue targets that are too general, such as: males or females, homeowners, millennials, or single parents.

Find a very specific target that includes an age range, location, and income level, as well as psychographic factors like lifestyle, values, and personality. This will save you time and money when you begin your marketing campaign by eliminating lead prospecting that will be fruitless.

One of the best ways for entrepreneurs to begin the targeting process is to look at their competitors; you might be able to find a niche market within their target that they have overlooked. Don’t be afraid to review and revise your target audience as your business grows and changes, in fact, it’s important that you do.

“Where do they spend time? Are they stuck on the highway for 2 hours a day? Do they spend a lot of time on Pinterest? Are they at conventions?”

— Kenneth Burke, Marketing Director at Text Request

Don’t forget that target markets will change as your company matures. Many businesses often forget to use sales data to identify trends in their consumers for future marketing efforts.

Brand Identity

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Brand identity is more than just your company’s name or its logo, it is the collection of all the values you stand for as well as how the public perceives you.

Sit down with your team and create a brand style guide. This guide will cover your mission statement and company values, target audiences, creative guidelines, and the tone of your brand, and it will serve as the backbone of your brand going forward.

Consumers will connect with businesses that are clear about their goals and welcome customers to learn more about their brand. Here are five branding case studies that will shed more light on the right way to craft your identity.

“Many consumers are shying away from faceless massive corporations and taking their business to friendlier small companies…Besides giving your brand a voice, sharing your story can add character to your business and appeal to consumer emotions.”

— Nate Masterson, Marketing Manager for Maple Holistics

Budgeting

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So many business owners refuse to even utter the word “budget”, but it is one of the most critical aspects of running a business. Setting strict parameters for how your precious money is going to be spent will strengthen your company and help keep you out of the red.

The first step in creating a budget for your marketing campaign is to figure out what your end goal is.

Are you just trying to create more brand awareness, or do you need to drive more sales?

This is because different techniques (which cost different amounts) are intended to have specific results. Read this article about small business budgeting to find out more about how to create a budget.

“Too many small businesses make the mistake of allocating whatever money is left over to marketing and advertising. Marketing is a critical component to being successful, especially early on.”

—  Jason Yau, VP of E-Commerce & GM at CanvasPeople

Tracking your marketing spend is crucial to the future of your budgeting success. Be sure that your website is set up with the proper conversion goals to understand where your visitors are coming from. As your site grows, you should be able to identify which channels and marketing campaigns are working and which ones to stop spending money on.

Identifying Marketing Channels

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There are hundreds of ways to reach potential customers in today’s market and it can be difficult to choose the correct ones. Social media, email, referrals, PR, print advertising, influencer marketing, and content marketing all have their own perks and can do great things for your business, but that doesn’t mean that you should use all of them.

One of the best techniques for selecting a distribution channel is to plan out your biggest goals for the quarter and see which channel seems to tie in directly to each one. Just like when defining a target market, don’t be afraid to look at your competitors and see what is working for them.

Once you have selected your channels, you have to test, test, and test. You should constantly be conducting A/B tests and seeing what is working and what is a waste of money. Remember, your product is nothing without customers.

“If people are already searching for what you offer, Google is the first choice. If they don’t know to search for it- if it’s a totally new thing - you need to interrupt them and make them aware, and social ads are great for that…be careful not to spend all your money and time on content without a plan or vehicle for distributing that content to a large number of potential buyers.”

— Brian Carter, Chief Executive Officer of the Brian Carter Group

Execution

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After completing all of these steps, your marketing strategy will still mean nothing if you do not follow through on it. This includes measuring your results and tweaking your strategy to fit your current needs.

There will always be new tools and techniques for marketers to use, so keep an eye out for anything that you feel could be valuable to your business. Check out this list of marketing tools to see what will work for your business. In the end, execution is equally as important as strategy because the execution is what will drive your business forward and generate results.

“Even with all the planning and strategizing in the world, entrepreneurs often feel intimidated by the idea of starting a marketing campaign from scratch. The key is to treat your campaign like it is one of your most important clients.”

— Jeff Arnett, Founder and CEO of Arnett Credentials 

Key Takeaways

Running a marketing campaign as an entrepreneur can be frustrating and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be.

As you can see, if you utilize all of the tools that are at your disposal and plan out your campaign for maximum efficiency, you can see massive returns on your investment.

Targeting, brand identity, budgeting, and distribution are all critical pieces to a successful strategy. Finally, following through on the execution will bring it home for your business, small or large.

Emily Banks

This guest blog article was written by Emily Banks, who is a bay area native who got tired of San Francisco’s cold beaches, so she moved to San Diego. She is currently the editor of 365 Business, a blog dedicated to giving actionable tips to small and mid-size businesses in five minutes or less. When she is not typing away on her keyboard, she can be found eating street tacos in the sunshine.

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