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Your marketing strategies will change depending on where you are in your company’s growth cycle — startup, scaling, undergoing a transformation — and it’s only by understanding how marketing evolves with the stages of your business that you can stay ahead of the curve and thrive.
When you’re a startup, the smart thing to do is set a course for fast growth. Start marketing as soon as possible, if you can, and make sure it aligns with your company goals and objectives. How valuable your initial marketing campaign is partly depends on where your company falls on the entrepreneurial scale — do you have an innovative idea that’s been proven, or are you trying to fix a problem no one recognizes yet? Whatever the case may be, focus on what makes your product different from everyone else in the market.
Early stage startups conduct a lot of research, but there’s still plenty you can do to create a great first impression and speed up your product development process. Marketing is vital to helping your company spread the word about your product and build your brand.
Analyzing competition pays off. Focus on the companies your product is trying to beat. Be sure to consider all aspects of their products, including marketing strategies, price points and customer demographics. Use these products as case studies to round out your marketing efforts.
At the same time, you’ll have to focus on product-market fit — not just your product. If it’s different enough and solves a real problem, you’re on the right track. If it simply meets an existing need or doesn’t fill a particular void in the market, your best bet might be to rework your model.
You’ll want to make sure your business model is sound before jumping into marketing so you can manage costs and risks at this point. Make sure you understand marketing costs and how they fit into broader business goals.
Launch stage, awareness
Preparing a launch marketing campaign is crucial, and it’s likely to be one of the largest, if not the largest, investments you make during your startup. Take your time and get it right; you’ll want to make sure your marketing is as effective as possible when it comes time to launch.
At this stage, you have a limited amount of time — just under 90 days and usually only three — so start right away. Tailor your marketing effort for each launch phase for maximum effectiveness and efficiency. The most successful companies use their marketing budget across all stages of product release, focusing on the core audience from early on and sustaining longer-term engagement until later in the life cycle with a more extensive customer base.
Articulate your core message early on and make it easy for people to connect with your company.
Growth and survival stage
Once your company has built a loyal customer base and is generally stable, it’s time to start examining how you can differentiate your product, market position and business.
This is an excellent time to assess what other marketing strategies are working for you and how they can be adapted to meet changing needs. For example, suppose you have an audience interested in social media marketing but not in organic search. It might be worth giving organic search a try before committing to advertising or promotions.
Marketing at this stage should no longer be a new expense — it needs to be part of the core strategy from the beginning. Companies should constantly compare their marketing strategies over time to stay competitive and gain a broader understanding of how their products fit into the marketplace.
Expansion and segmentation stage
At this stage, you’ll have to make sure your product is still relevant to the marketplace — make it as appealing to as many people as possible by expanding your customer base. Focus on expansion by identifying opportunities from both within and without your current market.
You can either look for new markets or try repositioning products in your existing market in terms of marketing. Expanding into new markets presents an opportunity for growth but may require some adjustments to your product and business model. Repositioning allows you to appeal to a broader audience while keeping the same product and business model. However, it often means making changes like adding more features or launching additional products.
At this stage, you’ll have to prioritize and plan for growth by forming strategic partnerships and acquiring or partnering with other companies. As you grow, you’ll need to identify which markets to focus on and what different growth strategies can be implemented.
Marketing at this stage should no longer be a new expense — it needs to be part of the core strategy from the beginning of your company’s life cycle.
When expanding into new markets, focus on finding existing partners in hopes of replicating successful partnerships in other markets. You can also acquire competitors or partner with them later on down the line if you decide that growth through acquisition is the best option for your company.
An ongoing process
Your company will continue to develop throughout its life cycle, and your marketing strategy should follow suit. As a result, you’ll need to stay on top of the latest trends and developments in marketing. This includes regularly evaluating your product’s market position as well as developing new features that can appeal to an even broader audience. New products can be accompanied by new messaging. They must be marketed separately, but consistency is essential for growth. Consider how multiple products can be marketed together.
Select a number of strategies and tools that speak to different audiences, but make sure they work together overall. Remember that marketing success depends on a combination of both innovation and execution.
Small business marketing plans are essential documents for the success of your small business. The marketing plan outlines the strategies and tactics you will use to increase your brand visibility and your brand awareness in order to create a more profitable company.