For many startups, one of the biggest challenges about marketing is knowing when to start doing it, let alone how to do it. In many cases, marketing is an after-thought or something to hammer on to a business strategy.
While there’s probably no perfect time to pull the trigger on marketing, it should be something startups need to be thinking about from the beginning to ensure it’s part of the corporate DNA.
So when the time does come for marketing, what are the tell-tale signs? A startup is ready when……
1. It understands the importance and value of marketing, and it’s committed to making it happen. This may be the biggest hurdle because it requires a startup to think about business operations other than development and sales. Once this hurdle is overcome, it’s always fascinating to see the enthusiasm and excitement about marketing and its potential to jump-start the business.
2. It knows what it doesn’t know. Most startup entrepreneurs are smart cookies with a vision of what they want to do. In many cases, they are good engineers or programmers who know their stuff. But while they understand marketing, they need to accept it’s not their area of expertise. It means being open to new people, ideas and plans that may be strange or uncomfortable. And, as important, it’s about accepting their limitations and knowledge.
3. The product or service is ready for the spotlight. While warming up the market before a product hits the market can be a valuable exercise, most startups should turn on the marketing engineer when the product is ready for prime time. It doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles but it has to work and delight users in some way – at least enough to get them engaged and interested. If you hook people with a product that delivers value, it can establish a roadmap for future success.
4. It understands marketing is a long-term proposition. Sure, startups can hit the jackpot and become overnight success stories, but marketing thrives when there is steady marketing activity focused on the right target audiences and channels. Any startup that believes marketing success happens by simply doing marketing is fooling themselves and setting the stage for disappointment.
5. It has money to spend. This is the “harsh” reality about marketing – it consumes time and money. The money can be hiring a full-time employee, someone on contract or a freelancer to create a strategy and tactically execute. It can mean spending money on advertising, search engine marketing/optimization, content, videos, conferences and marketing collateral. It doesn’t mean a startup needs a large marketing budget but it does have to spend some money.
For a startup thinking about marketing, the more checks on this list, the better. If you’re a startup looking for strategic and tactical help to jump-start your marketing, drop me a note.