Years ago when I was consulting for startups, I created something I called “A Startup Marketing Framework“. I used it mainly as a tool to describe the kinds of things that I could help folks with. Startups found it useful and it is still a popular piece of content on this site. Last week I had a startup pull out a printed version of the framework (from 2011 no less!) and I decided there were a couple of changes I wanted to make to it. Below is the new and improved version 3.

Framework Assumptions

As with previous versions, the framework does not attempt to cover things that I would consider to be more “Product Management” focused (like product roadmap for example). I’m taking a purely marketing point of view here.  The Framework also assumes that you have a product in market, you feel fairly confident that you have a good fit between your market and your offering and you are ready to invest in lead generation. If you aren’t there yet, there are things here you won’t need to (and more importantly, shouldn’t) worry about yet.   Lastly, my background is B2B marketing so like most content on this site, this has a B2B slant to it.  That said, I think most of it applies to a B2C startup.

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Market Knowledge

Market Category and Segments – Based on your interaction with early customers, these are the segments that have the most affinity for your offering and are the target of your marketing efforts.  These need to be well-defined and very specific.  I’ve had folks ask me where buyer/influencer personas fit and I include those here as part of what you need to understand about your segments. In previous versions I’ve called this simply “segments” but lately I find that figuring out what market category you are in is almost as important as knowing what segment you in targeting within it.

Key Points of Value – These are the most critical key differentiated points of value that your product offers.  This is not a long list of features but rather small number of key attributes that customers in your segment love about your product.  This is important for startups in particular to understand the real essence of why people buy your solution and it has a big impact on messaging, campaigns, sales strategy, etc.

Differentiation – This is a new box I have added this time around. I used to say that this was implicit in Key Points of Value but frankly startup generally struggle with coming up with value propositions that are differentiated that I decided this needs a box all its own. This captures how you would describe the key thing that makes you different from all other companies in the market. It is the thing that makes you, you in the minds of customers and prospects.

Competitive Alternatives – These are the alternative ways that prospects in your segments can attempt to address their needs without your product/service.  These may be competitive offerings, features or pieces of solutions in other spaces or the always fearsome “do nothing”.

Buying Process – This is another new box on this version. I used to say this was part of “sales strategy and process” but this is really more about documenting how your customers purchase solutions today. How you chose to sell might be something different. This is a key piece of market knowledge in my opinion.

Business Strategy

Business Model – This describes how the company makes money from the offering.

Sales Process and Strategy – The sales strategy is how the company will sell the product (including the channels if applicable).  The Sales Process is the detailed step by step process that a prospect goes through on the way to becoming a customer.  It’s important to note that this process starts long before a prospect interacts with a sales person and starts in the information gathering phase.

Market Strategy – The market strategy is a higher level view of how the company plans to scale in the market from early adopters to a broader market, including the segments to be targeted and in what order. (If I think of this as it relates to Crossing the Chasm’s “Bowling Alley of Market Development”, this would be the description of your “lead pin” and “adjacent pins”)

Partner Strategy – You could argue that this is part of “Sales Strategy” but there are more reasons to partner than just sales (sometimes it’s a marketing relationship, or to provide services for example) and since Marketing is usually responsible for this at a startup I thought it needed to be included.


Outbound Lead Generation – Outbound Lead Generation is the plan including budgeting and task execution for lead generation tactics that involve “pushing” marketing messages out to an audience.  This includes traditional marketing tactics such as events, paid advertising, telemarketing and traditional email marketing.

Inbound Lead Generation – This box is similar to the above box except that it includes that set of tactics that you are running that are focused on attracting prospects to you (rather than pushing messages out to prospects).  This includes blogging, social media marketing, content marketing, and organic search tactics.

Retention and Engagement – This is the bucket where I would put both tactics that startups would normally call “customer success” as well as tactics focused mainly on renewals. Cross-selling and up-selling tactics would also fall in this bucket in my mind.

Awareness – This is the bucket for all tactics related to ensuring that non-users of the product can observe that others are using it.  This includes product features that encourage people invite their friends or display to a person’s network some facet of using the product, referral incentives, website badges, sharable content, reviews and awards, customer testimonials and success marketing, etc. I previously called this “Visibility” but I think people understand “Awareness” better.


Messaging – This includes the company messaging, product value proposition, company and offering stories, responses to common questions, objection handling and reassurances for perceived risks.

Prospect Content – In the original version of the Framework, I had a single box called “Content Strategy”. I believe that the importance of content is growing to the extent that I think this deserves more attention. Prospect Content is content that is created in support of campaigns aimed at getting new customers (there will be content aimed at existing customers too – see below).  This will include blogs, video, podcasts, white papers and ebooks, research and data analysis, press releases, shared presentations, and anything else that is informative and helpful to prospects and supports both inbound and outbound campaigns you are running.

Customer Content – This is a new box I added that is specifically focused on building a plan for content for customers (as opposed to prospects).  The purpose of this content is customer retention and engagement (and it’s not an accident that this box sits next to that one in the Framework).  Again, for SaaS type businesses, I believe that retention is increasingly important and marketing should be putting more energy and effort into “marketing” to their existing customer base.

Media/influencer Content – This is a bucket of content that is created to help with activities related to working with reporters, analysts, writers, bloggers and other influencers.

Optimization & Market Learning

Funnel Optimization – The ongoing process of tracking and analyzing each stage of the sales funnel with the goal of making incremental improvements.

Results Tracking –  I am almost tempted to include this as implicit in the inbound and outbound lead generation boxes. Marketers used to be terrible at tracking so I wanted to call it out in a separate box. We are better at it now, but I still think this deserves to be a box on its own under “optimization”.

Market Learning – This includes both the ongoing process of meeting with customers and testing the assumptions you have about their needs, behaviors, preferences, etc., as well as the process of testing things in the market and learning from the results.