Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Startup Marketing 101

I gave a keynote talk at DemoCamp Toronto last night that I call Startup Marketing 101.  In it, I covered the three phases of marketing for a startup within the context of a lean startup doing customer development.  Here’s the summary of my talk (scroll down for the slides):

1. Customer Development involves testing your offering assumptions and validating that a minimal set of features meets the needs of a specific market
2. Those assumptions are about much more than just product and include: customer, sales, demand creation, market type and competitive assumptions
3. Product/Market fit is about finding a match between a product and a market
4. From a purely marketing perspective, there are three phases to a startup: pre-product, early adopters and scale
5. Pre-product marketing is about starting a dialogue with your market, sharing your expertise, building relationships and building a list of people who may be interested in your product when it is available.
6. Once you have achieved product/market fit with a set of early adopters you need to worry about the following things before you invest in scaling the business further: The Ecosystem (training, support, software), Economics (pricing and sales channels), Pipeline Tuning (testing to make sure you are maximizing the effect of every marketing dollar you’ll spend), The Visibility Foundation and Messaging.
7. The Visibility Foundation – is about figuring out how non-users will observe that others are using the product.
8. Your messaging needs to highlight differentiated value for your segments.  You need to describe in very simple terms what you do and the benefits for folks in your segments.  Storytelling is important and so is handling objections and giving reassurances.
9. Once you’ve done all that then you can invest in sales, lead generation, PR and marketing staff.  This may be a good time to raise money.
10. Once you have established yourself in a market you can move into adjacent markets but you first need to validate a new set of assumptions for those markets.
11. Product/Market fit can be lost – markets aren’t static so things can change.  You can also lose it by failing to scale your customer service or by inadvertently changing the product in a way that destroys part of your key value for your market.

Startup Marketing 101

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  1. Hi April,

    this is a great blog! I found you on Sprouter.com 😉

    When your product is still in “free” mode, should you be concerned about Cost per Lead just yet? Or should we make an assumption based on what we “think” we might charge for the product later on?

    I’m also wondering if the “conversion waterline” is the percentage of people who try our free product and came through organic search. Meaning, if 50% of organic search traffic (free) try our tool, then should we really be paying for anything that converts at a lower percentage, and only pay for marketing that converts better than that?

    For example, ReTargeter is working and doing great things from a branding standpoint, but it does convert lower than free visitors.

    • Hi Ryan,
      Glad you like it!
      It’s important to track cost per lead just so you can get a historical measure for your different lead tactics. That doesn’t mean you go out and spent a bunch of money on getting leads before you are ready. You should feel confident that you have a product that is a good fit for a market first and secondly you need to make sure that you have optimized your lead conversion funnel as much as possible (so that you get the most business for your buck). Once you feel comfortable with both of those then you can start spending some money acquiring leads.
      Organic search leads will often convert better than other leads, the problem is that it’s difficult to scale organic search rapidly (not that you shouldn’t try to scale it as much as you can – you should especially if you are getting great conversions) and you can only scale it so much. If you can get as many leads as you can handle with just Organic search then leave it at that. If you need to grow the business beyond that, you’ll have to start trying other things (even if they convert lower). Once you go beyond organic search you have to compare different tactics and do more of the ones the get the best ROI and less of the ones that deliver the least ROI.

  2. It’s challenging to range for quickly and you can only scale it so much. If you can get as many brings as you can manage with just natural look for then keep it at that.


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