Creating your start-up marketing plan
A marketing plan is not only critical for start-ups to promote their product or service to the world, it can also help attract seed funding and venture capital.
You can go no further than the mind-boggling success of an innovative Australian honey-harvesting device, called Flow Hive, to exemplify the importance of good marketing for start-ups.
A short home-made promotional video about the product was key in the most successful crowdfunding campaign outside of the United States, reaching a target of US$70,000 in just under three minutes when it was launched.
The success didn’t stop there. The Flow Hive Facebook page was seen by over 30 million people and the campaign on crowdfunding site Indiegogo received over US$12.3 million in pre-orders in just six weeks.
The video, made by family member Mirabai Nicholson-McKellar and co-inventor Cedar Anderson, was honed over several drafts to provide a short, compelling pitch about how the idea worked, the problem it solved, what the inventors had done to date, what they needed to do to commercialise it and the support they required.
If you’re looking for seed funding or venture capital, a well thought out marketing plan is a good indicator to potential investors that your enterprise is taking a well-structured and pragmatic approach to commercialising your idea.
A good marketing plan should underpin a realistic business strategy and business plan – rather than ones that are based on unrealistic expectations or emotions.
And if you’re seeking crowdfunding, you’ll need to do more than just publish an entry on a crowdfunding site. You also need a marketing plan to drive people to the site and create some online chatter among your target audience.
Marketing for sales
Once you’ve undertaken your product R&D and created an idea that fulfils a need in the marketplace, you’ll need to promote it to your target market.
Most startups have very limited funding for marketing. But it's not necessarily funds you need – effort and creativity can be used to achieve your marketing goals.
Focus on the solution
A marketing plan has to be based around the problem that the product solves, according to David Byatt, Marketing Directory of Bunbury-based marketing agency, Moshi Moshi.
“People out there have a problem, they need it solved, they value in it being solved, and they're willing to pay money for it to be solved.”
A marketing plan should aim to make contact with the target audience and make it aware of both the solution and its power.
You can’t sell to everyone. The reality is that the more limited your target audience is, the more likely you’ll be able reach them and create an impression.
“Usually, the smaller your target market is, the more effective you can normally create a plan to make contact with them,” says Byatt. “Every market is different and you’ve got to focus on one or two specific market groups to start up your business.
“Even before developing an idea, any start-up should have already gone through the process of identifying the problem they’re addressing and the market it applies to.”
Simply talking to potential customers about their experience with similar products or services currently on the market can help you identify opportunities for improvement.
It can also help shape the marketing plan – the messages you use and the tools you employ to reach your target audience.
Key questions could include:
- How do consumers find out about products or services currently on the market?
- What are their pains and joys when buying and using those products or services?
- What is their demand for similar products and how much are they willing to pay for different types of offerings?
Other research should include what marketing tools and ideas competitors are using. You can easily identify this by visiting the websites of current manufacturers or suppliers.
Concepts and production
The creative concept behind your marketing should be authentic to reflect the essence of your business. Avoid manufacturing an image that isn’t you. Using an authentic tone and language will go a long way to establishing trust with your target audience.
The production values of your marketing tools don’t have to be high end – but they need to be able to get the message across clearly and effectively. Test your ideas with friends or potential clients for feedback.
Content is king. Every word you use in marketing is gold. If you’re publishing content on a crowdfunding site, ensure the headline describes the product and benefit in just a few words and is accompanied by an eye-catching image. Make sure your pitch is short and sweet and speaks to the readers’ interest – not your own.
You’ll need to work on this a few times. Your pitch should tell a good story, not just about the product but also about how you identified the need for it. Test it on friends and family.
To drive people to a crowdfunding site or your website, you can always use social media. Your content needs to be create excitement and chatter about how your new idea is going to change your target audience’s lives.
Zero-cost or low-cost marketing tools include:
- social media
- online directories
- search engine optimisation
- content marketing
- email/direct marketing
- editorial content for media.
The cheapest and most effective channel is social media. According to Sensis, 79 per cent of Australians use social media channel.
This is a great way of getting through to your target audience, either via special interest groups or social media advertising that, for a low cost, can deliver your message to specific audiences (age, geographic area, male/female, interests).
You can easily set up a website yourself using drag-and-drop technology. But be aware that you have to ensure your site will be on page one of search engine rankings when potential customers come looking for you. To do this, you’ll need specialised help in search engine optimisation or have plenty of time to work out how to do it yourself.
Create key performance indicators to ensure you have something to work towards and measure against. Importantly, KPIs will help you work out your return on investment (in time and money) to see what’s working and what’s not.
The range of goals include leads generated, leads converted to sales, retention of customers and total sales. Also give yourself a timeframe to ensure you remain goal focused amid the bustle of everyday business operations. Three to six-month KPIs will help keep your business firmly fixated to your marketing goals.
Commit to paper and schedule
Make sure your marketing plan is written down to help keep you focused on achieving it. You’ll need to describe who your audiences are, what you want to say to them, what tools you’re going to use, your goals and how you’re going to measure your progress.
This will help you break down your plan into a schedule that commits parcels of work to realistic timeframes and aligns with goals. Your plan should also include resources needed to execute your plan.
Consider putting aside budget to hire a professional if it becomes obvious that you or your team don’t have capacity to achieve what’s needed.
There are many ways to collect rich data to measure the performance of your marketing plan. It comes down to what tools you’re using and whether your business is online or offline.
If you have a website, you can link it to Google Analytics for a full historical view of visitors to your site. You can then start collecting such data as new and returning visitors, conversions and achievement of KPIs specific to the site.
If you have an online shop, you can easily identify the number of sales and repeat customers. If you have an offline-time shop, you can obtain technology to count how many visitors you’ve had.
Whether your shop is online or offline, you can use visitor data to gauge the success of promotional activities in generating leads.
If you use Facebook or an online directory, such as Yellow Pages, you can obtain good data about web usage. If you use social media advertising, you can obtain a very good idea of your return on investment through such metrics as views, conversions and likes.