A month ago I got a call from a friend who is starting his own company and he wanted to know what some of the first things were that he needed to do to market his company. He was very excited about the new opportunity and I was very impressed that he was looking at marketing so early in the process.
This got me to thinking about what to tell him and where to point him for more resources. But I quickly realized that most books and blogs about marketing assume you have already started your company and want to take it to the next level. Even this blog, which is about helping start-ups do marketing better, assumes that the company has already been in existence for a short period of time. I'm going to fix this with some new blog posts on getting started.
So what would you do if you were given a blank canvass on which to build a marketing plan? If you had to list the very first marketing tasks to do, where would you start? Obviously, he needed to develop an overall marketing strategy but he is just starting out so there is limited to no budget or resources. Therefore, I wanted to give him a few marketing tactics to focus on out of the gate.
The first thing, quite clearly, was that he needed a name and to secure that name for his website and other social media properties. Getting a URL that's available is probably the hardest part today in selecting a name for your company. Most are taken but it's absolutely critical that you pick a name where you can get the URL as your website will very likely be the cornerstone of your business.
Too many shortcuts are taken here and founders choose a name that is misspelled so they can get the URL or have to settle for some variation on the URL that is long or difficult to remember when looking for the site. You need to get found easily so the name and URL are absolutely critical first steps.
In this case, he actually had already selected a name and developed a logo so it wasn't a totally clean slate... but almost. I did suggest, if there was the money, to invest in branding and design as the more professional you look the better it will be for your business.
We talked some more about building a website and creating some collateral, in particular a Powerpoint presentation, that he could deliver to prospects. These elements are required as you begin selling to prospects. But the first thing I said he should do after the name was to develop key messages for the company before he undertook any other activities.
I explained how crucial it was to create a simple message which differentiates your product to the target audience and is used consistently. I sent him a template for how to develop an elevator pitch, value proposition and boilerplate that can be used consistently on his website and in all his sales tools. Communicating the value your offer to customers is key which is why taking the time to develop messages is one of the key first steps in getting started.
Best of luck to my friend and all of those starting new companies. I'll continue to blog more on the topic of getting started to help you along the journey. For those that have companies which are already launched, what are the first steps you took from a marketing perspective? What would you do differently?