7 Startup Marketing Lessons From 2 Years of Being In the Business
It’s almost 2 years when I started to work with Positionly. It wasn’t the first time I was working with a start-up, but it was the first time in my career when I had a chance to help it grow from the very beginning. To be honest, I wouldn’t have ever imagined that during this time I would learn so much in such a short time-frame.
It wasn’t easy to fit within the SEO industry, where other well-established brands were running their businesses for a few years (one right now have its 10-year anniversary). I’m not sure, if “not easy” is even the right word to describe it. Growing a startup in such conditions was very difficult!
Our biggest competitors has mastered almost every aspect of online marketing – from content and inbound marketing to social media – not to mention that they also are the real SEO experts. We had to do things fast and learn from them as quickly as possible. It was an intense and bumpy ride, from which the whole team received hell of a lot of valuable experience. Here it goes!
1. Don’t Invent The Wheel Again
Our industry is full of buzzwords lately, like “inbound marketing” or “growth hacking”. The reason why these concepts found their place in the online marketing glossary only proves the fact, that marketers are good at crafting slogans that grab attention. The truth is that the industry hasn’t change that much.
As for inbound marketing – isn’t every marketing strategy inbound in a way? There are various marketing channels that supposed to be efficiently used. There is no “growth hacking” – a bag of tricks that will boost some of your metrics in a glimpse of an eye. 400% growth in 2 days. Are you serious? Your growth can’t be hacked, it has to be built and in the most of occasions – it takes time. There are no shortcuts, sorry!
Rather than focusing on the latest techniques that get a lot of hype, just to make their evangelists better stand up in the crowd, focus on proven methods that really work.
2. Do More, Analyze Later
Planning is important, but… although I do not recommend doing things only based on a good feeling, sometimes it might be the best way to execute them. Just make your ideas happen!
The “idea” is the tip of a gigantic, shit stained iceberg of work. And if you aren’t ready for what it takes, or worse, you think “that it’s someone else’s job” to push your idea from ether to reality – reconsider your profession. – David Snyder
Internet-based products give you the opportunity to try more things without the necessity of making a greater investment and a complicated authorization procedures. Making general assumptions and focusing on actually testing how your idea acts in a real world situations, could deliver much quicker the information if it’s the right direction to go. You will fail many times, but you will receive the data you need to make your decisions more data-driven.
3. You Won’t Do Everything By Yourself
My biggest mistake was an assumption, that I was able to do everything by myself. I really enjoy finding new, creative ways of attracting people to the product and observing how the effects of my work reflect on the company’s business metrics. The thing is, no matter how good you are – your skills and your time are limited.
Know this feeling when you have lots of ideas and you don’t know which ones to include in your strategy? Even when you prioritize and pick the best ones, you observe how your deadlines slip and a frustration begins to grow. The quicker you try to finish your projects, the more of their final quality will suffer. What’s worse – you won’t have a chance to try out the ideas that you had to leave behind.
It’s not easy to spot this moment, but if you’re really tight on schedule, it might be a good idea to look for additional pair of hands. Although it’s very satisfying to achieve success by yourself, it makes the route to getting closer to your goals much longer and steeper.
4. Everybody In The Company Is Responsible for Growth
Although every member of your team has different responsibilities to deal with, keeping the company rolling should be everybody’s job. Yes, you are busy, you have your tasks and deadlines, but try to avoid “this is not my job to that” approach by any means. No matter if you are developer, designer or you specialize in a totally different field inside your company, building growth is a team’s effort and it should be everybody’s primary goal.
If you plan a major feature release, everybody should participate in its creation. If you create a new content piece – everybody should be involved in its promotion. There could be much more examples. The key outtake from this is interdisciplinarity of the people you are working with. Try not to create a work environment where everybody is acting in silos.
5. Stick with Market-driven Product Development
Look at your product development process. Can you tell which of your features is the most popular among your users? Or can you tell which feature your users are actually paying for? Do you track how the new feature release affects your business’ KPIs? Measure everything!
In the digital world in which we operate, we are at advantages position, because we have the opportunity to track most of the aspects of an online business.
It is vastly easier to identify market problems and solve them with technology than it is to find buyers for your existing technology. If done right, a market-driven focus results in long-term, sustainable, profitable business, because the company will remain focused on solving market problems, as opposed to looking for things to do with the latest technologies. – Rian van der Merwe
The same as in marketing, the product development process should be data-driven and highly connected to the goals defining growth as well.
6. Don’t Copy Your Competitors
If you’re running in an overly-crowded industry, in which your competitors are doing well (most of the time they are better than you), you won’t get far by copying their strategy.
Maybe you would be able to make a better burger than McDonalds, but form a branding point of view, you will be always compared to the original and you will earn the permanent label of being “the second” one.
Your competitors may be good at leveraging their marketing channels, but that doesn’t mean you can’t compete with them. Instead of copying 1:1 what their are doing, find the channels they haven’t come up with yet:
or do things in a totally different way. Clever and fresh ideas always pay off:
7. Growth Is Important, But Your Clients Are More
The pursuit after growth is important, but the most important aspect of your business at the end of the day, are your clients. You could use vast amounts of “growth hacks”, master the most efficient marketing channels, but if you offer a really poor user-experience, clients won’t stay with you for long anyway.
One of the most important aspects of customer retention, despite the product, is user education.
As a person responsible for your company’s growth, when you find a source of your potential clients, you try to scale it. If your service offers a free ride, that source could give you a lot of potential prospect, eager to take your tool for a spin. What happens next?
Even with seamless onboarding process, it might happen that most of your users won’t end up as your customers. Why? Because they aren’t ready.
When trying to scale your marketing efforts, you often can forget about the actual users, who have decided to try out your tool. Don’t leave them alone. Your users will thank you for that.