A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about some of the first marketing steps you should take when you start a company as a result of a call from a friend. But then I realized that this is a problem many face and it would be great to talk about what needed to be done, from a marketing perspective, in the early stages of a startup.
Before I get into some of the marketing strategies and tactics that you need to look into, I thought it would make a lot of sense to actually define the different stages that a startup goes through in its lifecycle. This process could last months but will likely take years.
I'll focus on the marketing aspects of each stage in this post as there are obviously product development, financing, sales, support and many other aspects as well to each stage but those are for another blog.
It all begins with an idea for a product, service or company but this really is only the beginning. Before you invest too much time and money, you'll want to do some market research, informal is fine, to ensure there is a decent sized market for your idea and also evaluate the competition so you know that you can differentiate your product or service from them. This is also the stage where you need to make some hard choices around naming, branding and messaging for your company so that you can set it up properly from the start.
While the idea is being developed into a product, its time to put the foundation in place for your company from a marketing perspective. At some point you need to get the word out about this revolutionary product. But it's not just a matter of building a website and they will come. You need to launch the company using a variety of tactics from PR to social media to get thought leadership and word of mouth going. You'll also need to have the sales tools ready to answer why anyone needs your product and why is it better.
At this point, you need to focus and land your first customers. It's absolutely critical that you get this validation from the market and to learn more about what you product needs and how it can be improved. Partners can help a lot in this area from rounding out the solution to bringing credibility with customers. Leverage this validation through PR and other marketing activities as it's a crucial proof point for other prospects.
But rarely will that first customer set you up for life, so now it's time to build on this success and grow the customer base for your product or service. You need to scale by repeating that first sale tens or hundreds of times depending on the size of each deal. This is where the marketing activities need to scale by doing more of what you've been doing with a focus on lead generation and helping sales drive those prospects through the sales funnel.
Once your startup reaches a certain size, in terms of customers, employees, or revenue, then it's time to transition to the next phase of your company. This could be anything from selling the company to building it even larger and ultimately taking it public. The main point here is that you are no longer a startup and need to put in place the infrastructure and team to take it to the next level.
Over the next few weeks, I plan to do a series of Getting Started posts that explore these stages but more importantly look at the marketing startegies and tactics in more detail. In the meantime, let me know if these stages and tactics map to your experiences or issues you're facing now with your startup.