This is a guest post from Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer), founder and CEO of PR 20/20, author of The Marketing Agency Blueprint, and creator of Marketing Score and Marketing Agency Insider.
Anyone who’s ever run or worked in a startup business knows how difficult it is to build brand awareness, generate leads, convert leads into sales and increase customer loyalty. Resources are limited, challenges are abundant and opportunity is everywhere.
In the early-growth stages, every minute and every dollar count. Startups have to be highly efficient and effective in their marketing efforts, and that requires a strategic and methodic approach.
We recently partnered with Bizdom Cleveland to present Startup Marketing Series: The Entrepreneurs Guide to Marketing Success. The series featured three live sessions covering the foundational pieces of a successful marketing program:
The Assessment: Every element of an organization, as it relates to marketing, can be divided into assets, neutrals and escalators. By evaluating and scoring these elements, you can forecast potential, set realistic expectations, and allocate time, money and talent. We used PR 20/20’s Marketing Score assessment tool as a model.
The Scorecard: Marketing executives and business leaders are drowning in data. Your company must excel at bringing structure and meaning to the numbers. Be proactive in assessing your performance, and be willing to adapt in real-time based on results (or the lack of results). It’s essential at this phase to build a custom marketing performance scorecard to monitor goals and metrics.
The GamePlan: Leading marketing teams turn information into intelligence, and intelligence into action. They build dynamic campaigns that consistently produce measurable outcomes, including website traffic, leads and sales. The GamePlan is your strategy for connecting activities, audiences and outcomes.
For startups, it’s all about aligning business goals with your current assets. Following are five critical tips from the series:
1. Define Your Value Proposition. How are you providing value? And what differentiates your startup to make it worth the investment? If it’s hard to define your competitive advantage, marketing your startup’s product or service is going to be an uphill climb.
Rank your startup’s value proposition, and benchmark factors important to business and marketing success with a comprehensive assessment. We’ve created Marketing Score to help businesses get started.
2. Determine the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that Matter Most to Your Specific Growth Goals. Prioritize goals to help focus your resources where you need them most.
Build brand. Grow overall awareness and recognition. KPIs that show progress toward this goal include website traffic, new visitors and referring links (track these metrics by installing Google Analytics—a free software—on your website).
Generate leads. Build your contact database by offering valuable content and resources. Track progress with KPIs such as free trials, contact forms, content downloads, inbound phone calls and website form submissions.
Convert leads into sales. Translate leads into revenue by nurturing them through the sales cycle. Having the technology in place to tie marketing efforts to actual revenue can help determine the best allocation of marketing resources.
Gain customer loyalty. Especially during early growth phases, your first customers and loyal followers can amplify reach, and serve as advocates for future customers. Track churn, recurring revenue and referral revenue to tie this goal to lasting growth.
3. Align Audiences, Assets and Activities for Impact. Especially for startups, it’s critical to be selective with your most important resource: time. You’ll be marketing in vain if you’re not allocating time and talent toward making impact where it matters most.
Start by defining buyer personas for your most important audience segments, then make sure you have campaigns customized to meet their needs and goals.
4. Balance Builders and Drivers. Every organization should invest in creating assets that can eventually be leveraged to accelerate success. That’s why it’s important to build social media reach, attract website visitors, publish valuable content, expand your lead database and nurture relationships with influencers, including media, peers, bloggers and analysts. Startups that rely on traditional advertising and paid media will not survive.
Success requires a mix of builders and drivers.
Builders are foundational and recurring campaigns, such as blogging and social engagement, designed to create and expand assets.
Drivers are campaigns that capitalize on existing assets to generate short-term returns, and are often conducted over 1-3 month periods. Driver campaigns are designed to produce leads, and then pull them through the marketing funnel, often utilizing gated content, events and email.
Think of builders as marathons, and drivers as sprints. During the planning process, ensure your campaigns align with your marketing funnel goals, audiences, personas and marketing milestones.
The amount of resources dedicated to each type of campaign depends primarily upon: the strength of your business and marketing foundations, your short- and long-term success potential, and your marketing performance expectations.
For more on builders and drivers, see the PR 20/20 blog post, Inbound Marketing Measurement: Builders vs. Drivers.
5. Embrace Agility: Continually Measure, Analyze and Evolve. If you can’t measure it, don’t do it. Startups must be agile, continually shifting dollars and time to the activities that produce results. Continually assess marketing KPIs to spot trends, build momentum, and replicate what works best for your business.
Follow the five steps to build a customized marketing performance dashboard as a general guide to building your marketing Scorecard.
For details, see the first two presentations of the series available on SlideShare:
The Marketing Assessment: How to Analyze Your Company, Allocate Resources, and Build a Strong Core
The Scorecard: How to Build a Customized Marketing Performance Dashboard
What were the tips you found most valuable, or that you’ve already put into action for your startup marketing strategy? Post tips, feedback or any startup marketing questions in the comments below.