Marketing plans: the overlooked Holy Grails of startups

The majority of startups are doomed to fail before they ever launch. Don’t let this reality discourage you, because there are a number of things you can do to improve your odds of success. Keet Van Zyl recently published a compelling article for Ventureburn on things entrepreneurs can you do differently.

Startups often overlook the importance of marketing

Zyl’s article included quotes from several seasoned entrepreneurs, including Brett Commaille of AngelHub Ventures and Arlene Mulder of WeThinkCode. They all shared some excellent feedback, but none of them mentioned one of the biggest causes of failure: the lack of a solid marketing plan.

In the early 1990s, Lawrence J. Kamm, a renowned engineer and entrepreneur wrote a book on launching a successful engineering career. He briefly discussed the subject of entrepreneurship and the better mousetrap fallacy. He mentioned that too many technology entrepreneurs believe that creating a superior product is enough to launch a successful startup, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The harsh reality is that it takes more than a great product to create a profitable startup. Customers are usually loyal to the brands that currently serve them and sceptical of new competitors, so it takes a lot of coaxing to convert them. It’s virtually impossible to do this without a solid marketing plan.

The importance of a formal marketing plan

Every startup needs a detailed and carefully optimised marketing plan to survive its first year. Here are some factors that need to be addressed in your marketing strategy.

Emphasise marketing automation

Marketing automation is a fairly new concept that has helped many large businesses save thousands of man-hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, marketing automation plays an even more important role in startup success.

The average entrepreneur spends 52 hours a week running their startup. They often fail to meet their goals, because they spent too much time and energy on unimportant tasks or activities that could be outsourced and automated.

Marketing automation tools can save you a tremendous amount of time. One entrepreneur recently wrote a blog post stating that using a marketing automation service saved him over 1850 hours a year.

You should invest in marketing automation as well, because it will give you more time to focus on other priorities to grow your startup.

Your core value proposition

Too many brands make bold yet vague seems about their products and services. They over emphasise the following clichés:

  • Great service
  • High-quality
  • Competitive prices

Customers have become numb to these bold claims, because they don’t differentiate brands. As a startup, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle, because better-known brands have earned reputations for delivering on them. Neo Maruatona of the Maya Group emphasised the importance of a unique value proposition in the interview with VentureBurn earlier this month.

“Use the information about your uniqueness & strengths to choose your lane, stick to it, refine it and be the master of your own lane,” said Maruatona.

Successful startups must emphasise their unique value propositions to grow. What does your product offer that no other company does? This needs to be the core focus of your branding efforts.

Understand the role of your ROI

Established corporations can afford to lose a couple million dollars on a flawed marketing strategy. New entrepreneurs don’t have this luxury. You are operating on a very tight budget, so it’s important to pursue strategies that yield a high return on your investment.

When you’re launching a new business, it’s easy to get caught up in new marketing fads. Many businesses have been aggressively advertising on Pinterest, Instagram and other new social media sites. Unfortunately, these sites but don’t appeal to every audience, so many brands were wasting their money.

Your marketing plan needs to focus on strategies that are proven to work. It should be revised over time to reflect lessons you have learned along the way.

Feature image: Ivan Walsh via Flickr



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