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Marketing at a Startup: How Do You Define Success?

Marc Karasu
Ingram Publishing

Ingram Publishing


You are ready to start spending some money marketing your startup, but first you need to ask yourself: What does success look like?

When it comes to marketing for startups, there is no shortage of companies, vendors and agencies that would be more than happy to help you part with your money, and preferably in a one-month-at-a-time-fee style.

At a startup, you have a different set of challenges than in a more established company: Grow big, do it fast, and do it cheap. A very tall order, given that big, fast and cheap usually means “pick any two.” And, of course, if [insert latest fad company name] here can do it using [insert whatever article someone sent you], why can’t you do it, too?

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The challenge is that those examples are usually the exception, and what you don’t read in the article is that they have been at it for five years, have spent XX millions of dollars, or for all the attention have not yet earned a dollar in revenue.

So, while being a marketing startup has many challenges, you do have one big thing in your favor: You have the opportunity to build it right, from the ground up, and measure it.

A word on measurement — you need to make sure you know what you are measuring for, be sure you can capture the metric, and pre-agree on what successful metrics look like. What’s your KPI? Registration? Purchase? Engagement? You need to be clear on that. And remember, marketing brings them through the door, the site needs to bring them to the product, and the product needs to be able to keep them coming back.

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Think of it like this:

A good ad gets them to look in the window and consider you.

A good message or user experience gets them in the door and a taste test.

A good product gets them to keep ordering more and coming back — and when you really are good, recommending you.

Depending your how your business is set up, marketing really only gets them to consider and possibly try you, and you should set up measurement and success taking that into account.

Set your goals by quarter. In today’s world of instant measurement, many good (or great) ideas get derailed by initial metrics that are not statistically relevant, are not correctly being measured or analyzed, or are just not given enough time to take hold.

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While you don’t want to keep trying something that is not working, you do need to have the conviction and vision to see it through and give it a chance to work.

Balance and synergy are the organizing principles in how you take your new startup to market.

Brief all your employees, agencies and vendors on the new brand positioning, messaging and success metrics so that you have all dials working together in synergy.

Start slow, A/B test where possible, and be ready to reallocate money between your marketing dials to take advantage of what is getting traction and resonating with your users as you follow the metrics you are tracking.

Next, we can talk about what media makes sense for you.

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