Recap: How to Plan and Execute Great Startup Marketing Programs

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of attending April Dunford’s MaRS Studio talk in Toronto, “How to Plan and Execute Great Startup Marketing Programs”. These great Best Practice sessions are held monthly and cover great marketing and sales topics. In the past, our own Mark Elliott has presented on the B2B sales process.

For those who don’t know, April is the brilliant marketer behind startup marketing blog RocketWatcher and has a wealth of experience running marketing for both highly successful tech startups and large corporations. April’s talk took a refreshingly practical approach by focusing upon the 3 aspects of customer knowledge that should underpin your startup’s marketing programs.

Below are a few of the highlights from what was an enlightening MaRS Best Practices session.

Marketing Tactics Must Come From Customer Insight

In today’s startup environment there’s often a rush to plunge into tactical execution without first performing the analysis that should underpin said execution. The reasons behind this are understandable, since startup marketing is out of necessity based upon a lot of assumptions. However, assumptions without context don’t provide a whole lot of value over the longer-term. Thus, the first key aspect of customer knowledge is figuring out who your customers are, their characteristics and pain points, where they hang out (both online and offline), and how they choose to consume information. You need to move beyond the “Marketing Fashion Assessment” (a copycat stage where you look at what everyone else is doing), and select your marketing tactics based upon detailed observations.

What is Your True Value Proposition?

It is crucially important to thoroughly understand what you’re selling and the market you’re truly in. Highlighting a great example from her experience marketing for a tech startup, April explained the company didn’t have much success positioning its product as a database tool. Time and again prospective clients balked at what they perceived to be ‘just another database product’.

Following a meeting with a potential client who pointed out their product was more of a data warehouse than a database, the team developed marketing programs designed to leverage this slight positioning change and found substantial success. Understanding this difference and adapting to it allowed them to properly analyze competitive alternatives, key points of differentiation, and develop documented proof such as case studies or third party reviews.

The key takeaway? Get inside your customers’ heads to truly understand the value proposition of your products. Success will follow.

Embrace Each Stage of the Buying Process

Realizing how your prospects move through the buying process and defining the relevant accelerators and friction points at each stage will help you design better marketing programs. Understanding that you need to earn your prospects’ permission to sell to them will help you devise a host of operational plans (i.e. a paid traffic plan, social media plan, or content calendar) that can be tailored to fit each stage of the cycle. Ultimately, select your marketing tactics based on the stage of the buying process where friction points exist, and with what you need to do to move your prospects to the next stage in mind.

Overall it was a memorable and educational event and you can view the slides from April’s great presentation here. For assistance planning and executing your own marketing programs, take a look at how VA Partners can help and be sure to download one of our whitepapers.

Recap: How to Plan and Execute Great Startup Marketing Programs