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Guest Blog: Marketing Strategy for Seed-Stage Startups (Neil Wilkins, My Marketing Mentor)

So here you are. You have the genius idea for the next big thing and you are all fired up to make it happen and when it does, you’ll make a million.

Off you go, developing the product, spending countless hours and sleepless nights in the relentless pursuit of the dream. Forging ahead in face of adversity and naysayers and your creation is ready.

On the day the concept or prototype is ready to be announced, you are amazed that the world isn’t listening. Why are there no investors queuing at your door? There are no paparazzi or journalists baying to photograph or interview you? What went wrong?

The answer, and one of the main challenges you’ll face when building your start-up, can be summarised by just one word; Confidence.

Products rarely sell. Services rarely sell. Unless your surname happens to be Zuckerberg then it’s likely for you it will be a solution that sells. You solve a customer’s problem rather than introduce a swanky new product and hope for the best. Time and time again the successful start-ups are the ones who demonstrate confidence and that only comes with intelligence, insight and vitally, a marketing strategy.

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So how do you create a marketing strategy that exudes confidence?

Step One is market and customer insight. Before you invest time and energy in your product or service you need to listen to the marketplace. Search out trends. Listen to potential customers and partners and work out what problems need solving. These will be key to your communication strategy later. Think big picture and the macro analysis, including trends in technology, economy, social, political, environmental and, if yours is a regulated industry, remember legislation. Research deeply into the possible competition, not just the obvious ones but anyone who might be able to satisfy your potential customers’ problems.

Step Two is to set your mission statement. A simple, single strap-line, if you like, that clearly states the direction you are taking and that will act as your constant companion and guide on your journey. The light in front of you that will shape the activities you’ll do and will help you to deliver your business vision.

Step Three are your ‘three year’ strategic goals. Where do you intend to be in three years time. Using your market and customer insight, build smart objectives that include financial and marketing mix goals: product, place, price, promotion.

Step Four is then product. Taking the feedback you have learned from your research, create a set of essential product or service features, as well as some optional extras, which might prove interesting for a future phase.

Step Five becomes about tactical communication. Take the first of your three years and work out the detailed descriptions of your ideal customers. Create real personas and the journey you’ll take them on from initial awareness, through converting them to customers and then retaining them with intimate customer contact and loyalty programmes. Digital marketing and social media can have a significant and cost effective part to play in this stage of your marketing strategy, delivering fast and efficient outputs that hit the spot.

Step Six is about resourcing. What finances will you need to deliver your strategy and what kind of relationship are you looking for with your stakeholders and investors? Do you have appropriate experience and skills to deliver steps one to five? If not then where will you resource these necessary things?

Step Seven builds on the finances by creating a financial plan to show projected market opportunity, cashflows and key milestones. It’s all about sustainability. Having enough investment and cashflow to achieve your strategic timeline and targets.

Step Eight is measurement. Investors and stakeholders need to know how you will know whether things are working and to quickly remove wastage, inefficiency and irrelevance from your business. Multiplying the successes and removing the weaknesses is key to a sustainable business model.

And finally, the real deal clincher in your marketing strategy is Risk Management. Having carefully scheduled contingency plans for if things don’t quite work out as they should will give an amazing boost to the confidence of your story and how you are perceived by potential investors.

Remember, digital marketing and social media can help you at every step of the way. In the first phase of listening and identifying market trends right the way through the promotion to target customer personas and onward to measurement of everything you do. A marketing strategy is only as good as the outcomes you produce from it, so remember to keep your digital marketing and social media front of mind, whatever you are doing.

Think how much more confident you’ll feel taking your business and brand new product out to potential investors armed with your marketing strategy. Rest assured your potential investors will be eager to learn more…

For further marketing guidance, head over to MyMarketingMentor

If you’re interested in the latest startups – visit IdeaSquares

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This entry was posted on November 24, 2014 by in Branding, Marketing and tagged , , , .
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