It’s common for companies of all sizes to put marketing on the backburner. “We can’t afford marketing right now,” or, “Let’s get this out there first,” they’ll say, believing that holding off on marketing investments makes sense until the next version is launched and revenue is coming in. But this is an outdated way of thinking that only hurts the company. Pulling back on marketing expenses ignores the fundamental power of well-executed, strategic and performant marketing efforts. How is your company ever going to get from here to there without a legit growth strategy?
This vicious cycle has an easy out: prioritize brand-building and traffic-driving at every stage of your company’s growth. Whether your startup is just getting out of the gate or your established company is experiencing a sales dip, marketing is the way to build speed at the outset and regain momentum along the journey. In my work as the founder of InterimCMO, a consultancy that helps startups striving for rapid sustainable growth, 95% of companies I see are building their companies backwards. They build out the development team first, a sales team second and a product team if they’re lucky. Their product launches pass unnoticed and marketing only factors into their strategy when they’re desperate to start getting customers.
Relying on this kind of reactive, afterthought approach to marketing is lethal. Unfortunately, most founders have a narrow understanding of what marketing is and its crucial role in building a business for the long-term. Assuming that digital advertising is the extent of marketing’s power and reach is severely limiting. Marketing is the driving force to securing investment funding, cultivating a dedicated community, generating and nurturing leads and building a company that sticks around.
Here’s how to incorporate marketing into your business from day one and lay the foundation for your startup’s growth and long-term success:
Launch with marketing in mind.
The hard truth is, if you build it, there are no guarantee customers or users will come. Successful product launches require real marketing. To earn attention, gain traction and sell, you first need to define your value, your “why-does-this-matter.” Build a compelling story about who your company is, what your product does and who’s a part of your community in the period leading up to a launch — not after the fact.
Have that story well-documented for your team and published across all your company’s public profiles, website and press materials. That way, when it’s time for a public-facing launch, your audience will already be personally invested in your product. You’ll be more likely to call media attention intrigued by the story you’ve been telling and can capitalize on it because of the growth mechanisms you’ve set up.
Combine your marketing strategy and investment goals.
Fundraising is another time when most startups hold off on marketing. “When we’re fully funded, we’ll have the budget for a marketing team,” founders tend to rationalize. But fundraising and marketing aren’t if-then scenarios — they should be efforts that unfold in parallel and support each other.
Smart investors want to see startups that can grow a brand beyond just a product category and can truly appeal to their customers’ needs. Waiting on funding before building out marketing won’t work when investors expect to see a committed community of followers and an existing track record of sales in order to even consider backing a new company.
Avoid sales dips, slow periods and obstacles to growth.
What happens to companies that don’t invest in marketing from day one? Let’s get back to the later-stage startups and established companies struggling through low points in their growth. Whether it’s a sudden fall or a more general stalling of momentum, these challenges are avoidable when growth practices are well-integrated into the company’s core. And if your startup hits the sales or media jackpot after your product launch, you’ll need a way to sustain traffic and keep driving deals or purchases. With real marketing-mindedness supporting your startup’s every effort, you’re more likely to avoid those dips and valleys in the chart of your success down the line.
Work with customer data to improve your business.
Implementing an effective marketing strategy also isn’t a one-way street. As successful marketing becomes increasingly data-driven, community information, behavioural data and customer feedback can all be valuable tools for improving your product and growing your brand. Analyzing these types of data collected from all of your brand’s marketing efforts will equip your team with the insights required to better serve your customers, improve your business and expand to new markets.
If you’re expecting traction, views or sales without first building your brand and developing traffic and community around your offering, prepare to be disappointed. The right way to get a startup off the ground is to think about growth, not just product, and to avoid reactionary thinking. For more established brands that find themselves stalling out on sales and slowing down on growth, it’s never too late to treat marketing like a fundamental tenet of good business instead of a quick fix for a bad situation. Lead the charge with marketing instead of relegating it to an afterthought and you’ll have the solution already built into the foundation of your business.