Start-ups: here’s why you should invest in marketing expertise early

Short answer, because of your customer

Long answer, because the function of marketing is to act as the ‘voice of the customer’ within your business and this should be a driving force from day one.

Growth hacking is a fantastic marketing ideology that has launched many a start-up into a given market, propelled them to the top, and helped them disrupt the space. According to Ryan Holiday’s book, Growth Hacker Marketing, the first important step is Product Market Fit. In other words, ensuring that your product fits the needs of your customer, your market. To do this you need to understand the ‘voice of the customer’.

Enter Marketing. This customer-focused expertise is needed from the outset, from the point of product development. Often a misunderstanding arises where the function of marketing is being restricted to communication. Effectively sharing the message of your product or service to your target market is a huge component of the role that marketing plays within a business. But it’s also more.

The ‘voice of the customer’ should not be overlooked. From the outset, as an entrepreneur you need to invest in consumer insight, gaining a marketing advantage over your competitors.

When I say invest, I don’t necessarily mean spending thousands on a marketing consultant or hiring a marketer from day one.

Eventually, as your company takes off you will need to hire a trained marketer. That is a fact. However, in the early days adopting a few basic marketing principles will help guide your product launch and get your business safely off the ground.

  1. Start with customer personas.

Who are your customers? Sounds like a simple question. It is. Writing down the answer is often overlooked for this reason. It’s not enough to say, “Millennials who use mobile apps”. You need to note down:

  • Demographics – age, gender, income, location.
  • Psychographics – personality traits and preferences.
  • Behavior – what do they like? What do they dislike?

B2B business should also take note of characteristics pertaining to the ideal business, in which their ideal customer works.

  • # of employees
  • Product or service
  • Revenue
  • Geographic scope
  • Type of business
  • Leadership structure
  • Budget
  1. Make S.M.A.R.T. goals and map the steps needed to hit each one.

There is a difference between a target and an objective. In this target fearful world, it’s important not to forget to set clear, well-defined, and measurable objectives. As your business starts to grow, these objectives need to be decided and defined by the entire team, so they are engaged and invested.

I have always favored the S.M.A.R.T. principle. All goals must be Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic, and Time-related.

  1. Create your brand by telling an authentic story.

Authentic marketing is more powerful than anything else. Start to define your brand by telling your story. Don’t skip out the failures. Talk authentically about yourself and your reasons for launching.

Your brand identity will grow from here.

  1. Understand that your website is the shop window of your company.

Do not take your website for granted. It is the more important marketing tool you have. Your website will adapt as your business grows, but should always be the platform from which you disseminate information and a point-of-contact for your customer.

When creating your website, think about how your customer will navigate through the website, and make it easy to do so. I do this by brainstorming the questions I think my target customer will want answers to inform their buying process. Your website must be mobile friendly. In this day and age, having a non-responsive website is business suicide.

Write concise copy that guides the customer to the information they need, and ultimately how they purchase.

When I say invest, I also don’t necessarily mean spending hours a day on an online course, gaining additional qualifications.

Again, you don’t need to invest hours a day into gaining marketing expertise. Read, listen, and learn from the abundance of free publications and podcasts out there. Find some specific to your industry vertical as well. The way healthcare markets to patients is different to how retail markets, despite both industries being forced to leverage digital platforms for the on-demand consumer.

Here are just a few marketing specific portals to help you on your way:

  • GrowthHackers – get tips on the latest growth hacking principles, to drive fast growth for your business.
  • MarketingProfs – fantastic portal for newbies and veterans.
  • HubSpot Marketing Blog – Inbound Marketing or Content Marketing experts.
  • Six Pixels of Separation – fantastic read that cuts through the jargon.
  • Grow – great read for marketers, but also provides unmatched leadership advice.
  • Chief Marketer – help you understand how to leverage data in marketing.
  • com – watch out for what seasoned CMOs are keeping their eyes on.
  • Jeff Bullas – self-made social media tycoon.
  • The Marketing Companion Podcast – easy to absorb insight into the latest marketing trends.
  • VentureBeat Podcast – MarTech discussions, interviews with digital leaders, all packaged in a light-hearted podcast that is perfect for the subway ride.
  • Social Media Today – best practices to utilize these free platforms.
  • – technology is changing marketing. Keep this in mind.

Also, network at local events. is a fantastic resource for start-ups. Marketing events are a dime a dozen, so why not attend a few. Ask pointed questions about the challenges you’ve been facing to seasoned professionals over a glass of wine or two.

Marketing New York


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