May 11, 2021 5 min read
In the growth phase, many startups may not have the initial capital to run massive campaigns or leave marketing as an afterthought. But marketing should be a key function for any startup, and there are plenty of profitable channels and tactics they can use, writes Steph Schaffer.
It’s a common misconception among startup founders and entrepreneurs that if a product is good enough, it will sell on its own. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
Whether you’re shipping a B2B or B2C product or service, marketing is a fundamental function of all successful businesses – from startups to established businesses. No one is going to buy or interact with a business they’ve never heard of.
In my experience as a marketer working with startups, marketing can be overwhelming for founders with little to no understanding of the field. Often times, you see founders moving marketing to the bottom of their priority list.
This same lack of understanding can also deter founders from realizing their true worth, causing them to miss out on important opportunities to reach key audiences. What founders often ignore is that there are profitable channels and tactics to help amplify their brand until the company is ready to make bigger investments.
Don’t underestimate the power of branding
A strong brand can influence actions and stimulate brand recall; improving the process of purchases, likes, shares, donations or any other action sought by a company. Branding is important for businesses of all sizes because it not only creates a memorable impression, but clearly communicates to customers what they can expect from your business through a variety of touch points. A good branding image also sets one brand apart from another and can easily help clarify what makes your startup unique from its competition.
Building the foundation for a strong brand is especially essential for start-ups and can often make or break your business. It also creates a starting point for your business needs – whether it’s creating a branding image, internal or external communications, or involving investors and believing in your product or service.
Aussie scaleup Koala is a prime example of how a once small and unknown mattress brand managed to build a solid brand base from the ground up to become the great direct-to-consumer company it is today. Despite its gigantic growth, Koala continues to stay true to its ethics and brand character, which is reflected in all points of contact with consumers.
Hire a generalist rather than a specialist
For those who have the luxury of considering hiring an in-house marketer, we recommend hiring a generalist marketer rather than a specialist to avoid sealing your startup’s marketing direction. Founders who start by hiring a single specialist such as SEM / SEO, content marketing, or social media risk missing out on many opportunities for growth and scale their business by going a one-way street of marketing.
Equally important is hiring a marketer who has experience in the startup industry and understands the challenges and demands of startup marketing.
Successful startups should initially hire generalist marketers who have been nimble in their marketing strategies and able to pivot around the needs of a business. As a startup becomes more mature, founders and executives may consider hiring more specialist marketing professionals, depending on the channels they deem appropriate to grow and grow their business.
Capitalize on free opportunities
A strong SEO-rich content strategy, organic social media, and networking at free events are all great ways to take advantage of free opportunities. The Australian startup ecosystem is renowned for its networking and sense of community. Companies like StartupVic, Stone and Chalk, and Startmate all have their own events to encourage networking and promotion of Australian startups and entrepreneurs.
In many cases, at large conferences, startups have the option of being a “community partner” rather than a “sponsor”. This is another great way for startups to market and market their brand to relevant audiences, without having to shell out big bucks on sponsorship packages.
Another great way to market your startup is to partner with bigger brands that match your business vision. Atlassian has been successful in the past by partnering with bigger brands such as Startmate and Pause Fest to publish content or host roundtables and panels. Not only does this put you in front of the right audience, but it builds brand awareness and credibility.
With that said, it’s important to stay restricted in your goal and target audience. This reinforces the need to build a solid foundation for your business. Staying true to your core philosophy will keep you aligned with your marketing.
Regardless of the industry, product or service, marketing should be a key function when growing and scaling a startup. No matter how amazing your product is, marketing can make or break your startup’s success. With a solid brand foundation and the right first hire, you’ll get off to a good start.
Steph Schaffer is the head of mmarketing at a New Zealand-born digital products studio and venture capitalist Dovetail.