A Demystified Guide To Marketing For Startups And Growing Companies

Everyone knows what Marketing is. Or, do they?

Marketing is not sales, although it supports sales efforts. Marketing is not advertising, although advertising is a part of marketing. Marketing is the process of identifying, attracting and engaging buyers with sellers and their solutions.
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Identifying your market is based on two things:
  • The utility of your solution to solve a potential customer need, and

  • The ability and willingness for a potential customer to purchase your solution.

Attracting customers requires communicating the right message to the right audience at the right time with the right media.

  • A story, well told, with clear, concise and consistent messaging attracts potential customers to your solution.

  • Your brand represents the value of your solution in the eyes of your customers.

Engaging your target audience and turning them into buyers requires commitment and investment.

  • Build a relationship with your prospective buyers so that when they are ready to buy, they think of you.

  • Understand the motivations of your prospective buyers, and what you can do to make it easier for them to become your customers.

By knowing who to talk to, what to say to them, and what to do for them, you can connect your solution to customers to solve their problems. Who they are, what they want and how they want to be treated are not just essential principles for great marketing your business; these principles also work across all relationships in life.

Companies often spend the bulk of their time, talent and resources focused on building the right product or service, with marketing as an afterthought. Early involvement and a strong commitment to marketing can provide marketplace validation, generate a more sure path to achieving your business goals, and deliver greater returns. The most successful companies start with their marketing to better inform the creation and development of their solutions and better serve their marketplace. Marketing is a key driver of successful businesses.

While there is no single formula that works for all businesses, there are common elements that help drive marketing success.

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Brand Audit

Cultivate your brand, starting with a brand audit.

If you don’t know where you are, it’s hard to get to where you want to be. This is especially true in branding.

Often, people think branding is the outward expression of a brand, story or messages expressed by tangible assets like a logo, a tag line and maybe even a color scheme. While those are important parts of every brand, they are just parts.

To cultivate a powerful brand that helps you build your business, a brand audit is a key process to evaluate the current state of your brand, so that you can develop a more holistic and inclusive strategic plan for guiding you toward your marketing and business goals.

A brand audit is a snapshot in time that looks at your branding from end to end. The audit evaluates your internal perspective, your external reception and your customer-facing point of view. While it serves as an important checkpoint, it is not, in itself, a brand strategy. It can be used, however, as a starting point for improving and evolving to grow your business and elevate your brand.

Typically, a brand audit will examine:

  • Internal branding: brand values, value proposition, market positioning, company culture

  • External branding: brand story, brand identity, media content (paid/earned/owned)

  • Customer PoV: customer collateral, thought leadership, customer systems, and support.

Every company, from startup to scaleup and even mature stage, should regularly undergo a brand audit to:

  • Understand the business, the language, and the goals in the current environment

  • Provide a baseline for sharing information, uniting all stakeholders and teams

  • Make educated recommendations on how to elevate the brand to create better outcomes.

Determining the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing starts with the current state baseline evaluation generated from an effective brand audit. It is a process that will help you measure snapshots in time along the path to reaching your goals.

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Create a picture of your ideal customer with perfect personas.

You need to understand where you are now before you can determine how to get to where you want to be in the future. A current state analysis is a set of processes to help you determine your baseline. Here are a few key activities to start this assessment. You can add more as needed for your business.
With the structure and context of personas, it is easier to create messages that resonate and move target customers into desired outcomes. Each persona is specialized as a unique buying audience, so it is not uncommon to create multiple personas, depending on the outcomes you are trying to achieve. Using data on existing customers, markets and industries, combined with surveys, interviews and other research, you can build personas to help you focus your efforts to identify, attract and engage customers to your solution.
Persona Chart

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Common elements of building a persona include:

  • ROLE: not only the job title and duties but required skills, knowledge and reporting structures

  • COMPANY: specific information on size, structure, and marketplace, as well as more generalized trends on the industry and how the company fits into the bigger picture

  • GOALS: what success looks like for this person, how they are measured and what keeps them awake at night

  • PERSONAL: what motivates this person not only at work, but in life, and how do they approach the purchasing process.

Building personas is an important part of every marketing program. The results can contribute to:

  • Refining customer solutions

  • Validating a viable marketplace

  • Identifying targeted prospects

  • Developing messages that resonate with target audiences

  • Optimizing the sales process, and

  • Enhancing the strategic marketing roadmap.

From buyers to users to influencers, creating perfect personas can help you know the “who, where, and how” to focus your marketing so that you reach your business goals with less cost and greater success

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Content Strategy

Build credibility and stand out from the others with original content.

Everybody loves an expert. Fortunately, there has never been a better time to showcase your expertise to the world than in today’s digital age.

From scholarly articles to explainer videos, and podcasts to presentations, there is more opportunity to put your thought leadership on display than ever before.

Original content uses the expertise and experience of your company’s best and brightest people to resonate with clients, instill confidence in your company, and educate industry consumers.

Creating original content demonstrates what your people know, say and do to make you a better choice. It is an undeniable and unique advantage for positioning your company as a leader and an expert.

Creating original content is an ongoing process. The most positive outcomes are a result of repeated and consistent sharing of thought leadership that addresses a relevant topic with a well-founded perspective and a solution to resolve the issue. It’s not, however, a sales piece. Thought leadership is a conversation or perspective that contributes to solving a common problem, without necessarily pushing a specific solution from a specific company. Establishing thought leadership is a continual effort that, over time, builds credibility within markets and audiences.

The same original content can be extended across different media to reach intended audiences, including:

  • Blogs

  • Case Studies

  • White Papers

  • Published Articles

  • Interviews

  • Presentations

  • Podcasts

  • Educational and Informational Videos, and

  • Infographics

After a collaborative effort between sales and marketing to inform, create and develop original content, use those materials in the marketing and sales processes to:

  • Attract interest and engage with prospects and customers

  • Build awareness for the brand
  • Create confidence and demonstrate competence in solving relevant business issues.

Original content establishes thought leadership that builds trust in your company. It elevates the ideas and thought processes that are part of your company’s intellectual property. It builds influence in your marketplace and boosts your online and offline marketing effectiveness. Original content is a differentiator that can help you innovate, pivot and even transform your business with a serious competitive advantage.

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Online Marketing

Construct your presence with online marketing

What started as spinning logos and awkward blocks of text has evolved into the most available and effective marketing channel most businesses have, outside of a personal conversation.

Your website and online marketing assets can share your story, attract attention to your business, and help you find new customers, by serving as your company storefront that’s always open for business.

Online marketing enhances the customer experience, leading and guiding visitors into becoming customers and customers into becoming advocates for your business. It starts with a strategically designed and creatively developed website that attracts, informs and engages your visitors. It extends to materials of value that are available at the click of a button. Sometimes, this is presented as a trade for a valid email and the promise of more value to come. Online marketing takes many forms, including sites and landing pages, original content, and interaction across social sites, all designed in concert to capture an “audience of one.”

Developing effective online marketing requires a strategic plan that maps the customer journey, and then uses messaging and media to move target customers along that journey. Online marketing integrates a mix of many different media channels, including:

  • Site Design and Development
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Content marketing

  • Social media marketing

  • Email marketing

  • Online Advertising

Using a “hub and spoke” methodology, develop online marketing content and campaigns that extend reach through the “spokes” of online search, email, social media, and advertising. You can even use offline or traditional channels to bring customers to the “hub” online site – where they can connect and engage – to build a customer relationship. By implementing effective branding, ideal personas, targeted messaging, and business intelligence with a hub and spoke strategy, online marketing can ignite demand generation and support the sales process to help you reach your goals.

Sellerant's hub-and-spoke

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Online marketing is measurable, value-driven, tested and proven as an effective process that helps businesses grow. With a well-defined call to action for each paid, earned or owned media interaction, online marketing is one of the best ways to build the customer journey and engage your audience.

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Social Marketing

Share and engage with social media marketing

Social media can be addictive. It can be dangerous. From fake news to privacy issues, social media faces many issues in our current and future worlds that need to be addressed.

That is exactly why it is so important to understand and use social media appropriately, as part of your integrated marketing.

The real value of social media marketing is the ability to use online networking through the channel to extend your reach and influence far beyond what you could otherwise do at a relatively low or no cost.

With almost half of the world on social media, the power of social media marketing cannot be denied.

Social media comes in many forms across many channels that evolve over time. Common social media types include:

  • Social networks to connect and share with people

  • Media sharing networks to share photos, videos, and other media

  • Discussion forums for sharing news and ideas

  • Bookmarking and content curation networks to discover and share new content

  • Consumer review networks to review products, services, and businesses

  • Blogging and publishing networks for individual content contributions

  • Interest-based networks for sharing interests and hobbies

  • Social shopping networks for online commerce

  • Sharing economy networks to trade goods and services

  • Anonymous social networks that enable anonymity

Social media marketing can be organic or paid, manually generated or automated, and promote an individual or a company. It’s not an “either/or” choice, but a concerted effort for “all of the above.” The success of a social media marketing program can be easily determined by some key metrics, including return on ad spend (ROAS), engagement, reach and conversions. Whether paid, earned or owned, the ultimate goal of social media is to share and extend the reach of your brand, your message and your engagement to others in your network who can then share with their networks and compound the reach of your communications.

Social media marketing is the process of using existing media channels and tools to share tailored content with the intent to engage users.

  • Start with a goal-focused strategy for your social media marketing

  • Understand your target audiences

  • Create the messages that resonate

  • Share across the media channels that are most relevant for your targets
  • Integrate a call to action that brings users back to your business, and

  • Measure the results for optimization and return on investment

A strategic approach to incorporating social media marketing into a goal-focused strategic roadmap ensures that the time, effort and resources dedicated to social media are intentionally focused on delivering value. From social broadcasting to social listening to social selling, social media marketing continues to evolve with the changing landscape.

Sharing authentic, relevant and valuable content with your own social network enables your marketing to work on your behalf, even when you are not working. It can help establish your reputation and people’s perception of you, your company and your brand. It’s not a “one-size-fits-all” solution, but when effectively executed, social media marketing can produce influential results for your business.

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Marketing Automation

Personalize your customer journey at scale with marketing automation

Today’s business relationships are increasingly moving away from being company-managed toward being customer-managed.

To adapt and accommodate this shift, marketing automation tools can be used to provide scalability and availability that supports every individual customer engagement opportunity at every stage in real-time.

The result is that every interested prospect can now be served on their time and at their pace to move them along the customer journey.

Marketing can be daunting with so many moving parts that need to work in concert to work best. Thankfully, as marketing has evolved in the digital age, so have marketing tools. Marketing automation now enables rules-driven, technology-supported, integrated systems and processes for planning, coordinating, managing and measuring the marketing effectiveness of the customer journey.

Marketing workflows enable customization at scale and business intelligence that informs and supports every aspect of the business lifecycle, from sales and revenue to solution development and delivery, and can be automated through an integrated customer relationship management platform and marketing automation tools, delivering a focus on a “customer” of one that includes:

  • Trigger marketing, based on activity

  • Remarketing, based on propensity to convert

  • Campaign marketing, based on audience targets

  • Automated customer interactions supported by artificial intelligence tools

Create value through marketing automation solutions that:

  • Enable data to be leveraged across an integrated marketing and sales program

  • Track the outcome of each step along the customer journey for ROI and optimization

  • Serve each individual with a personalized experience to help them solve business issues

Effective marketing automation increases scale, scope, and skills for personalized conversations with each individual. It informs performance measured along each step of the customer journey with data-driven business intelligence and highlights opportunities for optimization. It improves your return on investment of marketing resources for a better company bottom line.

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Demand Generation

Turn personas into prospects with demand generation

As complex as each specialized part of a marketing strategy, activity or action can be, the purpose of each specialty works toward the overall goal to identify, attract and engage buyers with sellers and their solutions.

Demand generation is the specialization of building brand authority to create awareness and interest that engages prospects.

Strategies guide your direction and define how you will reach your goals. Plans guide your execution and detail what you will do to deliver on your strategies. All too often, businesses spend time, money and resources in strategic planning only to generate a document that gets shared, reviewed, praised, and then set aside. A strategic plan that is not acted upon is merely a wish list. A strategic plan that is effectively executed is invaluable in achieving goals. Create value in your strategic plan with commitment, investment, and engagement.

Although different than lead generation, which is the process that qualifies and moves prospects through the sales cycle, demand generation is an integral and collaborative high-value marketing strategy, coupled with the sales process to build a long-term customer relationship.

Demand generation capitalizes on the interactive nature of commerce as an exchange. By focusing on a “give to get” model, demand generation provides value in the form of information, knowledge and “value-adds” that a potential customer wants in exchange for information about that customer. Demand generation relies on integration with lead generation and the sales process. Inbound marketing, gated content, blogging, email campaigns, social media marketing, and other content-focused activities can all be a part of demand generation. The key is that the transaction between buyer and seller has an exchange of value that causes each to continue to the next step or touchpoint along the customer journey.

More specifically, demand generation finds and attracts potential customers with content and guides them along a strategic path, gaining confirmation and information. The process may look like this:

  • A contact engages with demand generation content in exchange for personal information

  • The exchange of personal information feeds a CRM platform

  • Leads are tracked in a conversion funnel with a “lead nurturing and scoring” methodology

  • Lead scoring rules trigger a conversion point, moving the lead from marketing to sales

  • The lead becomes part of the sales process and moves toward becoming a customer

As the sales process continues to gather information on the lead, that information is cycled back to marketing to inform the demand generation process and enable optimization through activities including retargeting, “special offer” campaigns and even as research to improve marketing content. This symbiotic cycle represents the collaborative nature of integrated marketing and sales.

The seamless collaboration between marketing and sales execution delivers exceptional value and a strong bridge between the two functions that help accelerate growth and reach business goals.

Demand generation is a complex and integrated process that combines marketing and sales disciplines to generate creative and analytical activities that enable your business to reach new markets, promote solutions to new customers, retain existing customers and increase the value of a contact, a lead, a prospect and a customer across the business lifecycle.

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Ensure your integrated marketing is cohesive, collaborative and aligned with your business goals.

Marketing has been described as “magic” and even sometimes as a “black hole” shrouded in mystery and expense.

The truth is that marketing works best when it is cohesive and collaborative, with a strategic plan that is aligned with the business. Systems and processes can support personalized, flexible, scalable and repeatable marketing to improve efficiencies and deliver a better return on investment.

To identify, attract and engage customers, follow these steps:

  • Cultivate your brand, starting with a brand audit

  • Create a picture of your ideal customer with perfect personas

  • Construct your presence with online marketing

  • Share and engage with social marketing

  • Personalize your customer journey with marketing automation

  • Turn personas into prospects with demand generation

With marketing as a core part of your business strategy, you’ll have a foundation for successfully accelerating the growth of your startup or scaleup.


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