You can’t sell anything if you can’t tell anything. Martin Luther King did not say ‘I have a mission statement.’ And even if you build it… you may still need Google AdWords.Jennifer Mesenbrink
For me, these three sentences encapsulate why marketing matters in 2020. Sure, you still need a killer product, and there’s a hell of a lot of work that goes into making that happen. But if you don’t go about telling the world your story in the right way, with the right tools, then you’re probably doomed to fail from the start.
But what to do? For startups, time really is money, and the amount of “advice” out there is pretty overwhelming (last I checked there were over 4 billion hits for “digital marketing” on Google).
I don’t have any silver bullets to offer, but what I do have is this list of tried and tested tools and resources. Enjoy!
1) Start Slow
You’ve probably heard about investor-friendly hockey stick graphs that show exponential startup growth (often as high as 10% week-on-week growth for your main KPIs). But remember that you should not run before you can work. In fact, at this point, it’s actually better to do things that don’t scale.
It’s much better to work on your product-market fit first. After all, there is no point in loading your rocket up with fuel, and putting it on full throttle, if you’re not even sure it’s pointing in the right direction.
Though it’s a somewhat abstract concept, and thus hard to pin down, Sean Ellis defines product-market fit by at least 40% of users saying they would be “very disappointed” without your product. If you can confidently say this, you have your product-market fit.
2) The Growth Mindset
The next step is to build yourself a framework for growing your startup and telling the world about your business. And process really is key here. Successful growth isn’t magic, rather it’s an organised system that hinges on iteration and refinement.
But instead of having me ramble on for another 500 words on how to do this I suggest you watch this 30-minute video by Brian Balfour instead — How to design and track viral growth experiments. After watching the video all you need is to roll up your sleeves, open a Google Sheet, and you’re good to go.
When you have time I’d also recommend having a read of the following:
- Growth is a system, not a bag of tricks by Andrew Chen
- Startup lessons by Drew Houston
3) Tools of the trade
There are a lot of tools out there to help you get the job done. But to get started and get that early traction you really don’t need much. Here’s a few I’d recommend, with a rough idea of costs in brackets:
- Good website/ blog (WordPress and/ or Medium are nice starting points, both free for entry level)
- Google Analytics for website data and performance (free)
- AdWords to try out paid marketing (the sky’s the limit here but testing with small budgets will certainly help get you started)
- SEMrush or Ahrefs for keyword tracking and SEO monitoring (~ €100 a month)
- Intercom, which basically acts as a “CRM light”, and is great for nurturing leads and specific, action-based messaging (~ €100 a month, based on how many users you have)
- I’ve always had great results from cold email outreach, so I’d recommend a tool like EmailHippo for figuring out people’s email addresses (free)
- Your network — LinkedIn, events and meetups (free)
- Your brain! You’d be surprised how resourceful you can be when you really push yourself (free)
4) Recommended Reading
This hopefully serves as a brief overview for anyone new to the world of startup growth and digital marketing. If you like what you see then I’d also recommend checking out these words of wisdom from some of the big hitters who have been there, done that, and got plenty to show for it.
- SEO in 2019: The Definitive Guide by Brian Dean
- How voice search is going to change the role of SEO, a great podcast by Kieran Flanagan
- SEO playbook for seed stage startups by Igor Lebovic
- How to do keyword research by Tim Soulo
- The future of content strategy by Matthew Howells-Barby
- How to plan a successful PPC campaign in 2018 by Julia Olennikova
- How Airbnb built one of the most successful referral programmes ever by CloudSponge
- Freemium conversion rate: Why Spotify destroys Dropbox by 667% by Benjamin Brandall
So, what did you think? Good, bad… indifferent? I’d love to hear your take on this topic so please do share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Credits for the opening quotes to Beth Comstock, Simon Sinek and Jennifer Mesenbrink respectively. Full credit to Ashley Friedlein for the title too!