Modelling the Customer Buying Process

Startup marketers need to develop a deep understanding how prospects move through the buying cycle when structuring a marketing plan that drives customer acquisition. Mapping this process requires an understanding of the stages that a customer moves through from not understanding that they have a problem through to purchase, and renewal as well as what will either speed up or slow down the customer as they move through the process. The explicit stages will differ somewhat from company to company but in general, the process looks like this: For each of these stages you have Accelerators and Friction points. Accelerators are things that help move people from one stage to the next. Friction point are things that can delay a prospect from going from their current stage to the next one. For example, if I was looking at purchasing CRM software for my business here’s the stages I would pass through: No Need – I am managing my contacts on a spreadsheet and I think that works just fine. To get to the next stage I need to understand what a CRM tool could do that I can’t do in a spreadsheet. Need – I now understand that I have a need. That may have happened because my customer base got bigger and dealing with a large spreadsheet is getting hard. It may be that I am looking to capture transactional information about customer interactions and storing that in notes is hard. It could be my sales team is growing and sharing a spreadsheet is hard and impractical. I’m not actively looking at different solutions yet – maybe because I...
3 Reasons to Build a Startup Marketing Plan

3 Reasons to Build a Startup Marketing Plan

Many startups aren’t executing against a documented marketing plan. I’ve heard loads of excuses for why a plan doesn’t exist. The 2 most common ones are that things are changing too rapidly to plan or the marketing plan is so simple everyone can track it in their heads. I’m not a fan of overly complex, long-term (i.e. more than 3 months) plans for anything in a startup. I am however a big fan of having the assumptions and inputs to a marketing plan written down and an rolling monthly operational plan that the team (even if it’s just me) is working against. There are a bunch of good reasons to create a marketing plan, work against it and maintain it.  Here are three: Documenting assumptions/expectations– There are a set of inputs to any marketing plan: known information about the segment/buyers, how the buyers see the value of your offering versus alternatives, and the steps in the buying process. There are assumptions around each of those inputs based on things that are very likely to change over time such as the competitive landscape, the current capabilities of the product, and buyer behavior. You, and the other members of the team may not be in agreement on those (or even conscious of them). Getting those documented will both reduce the risk of incorrect or mis-aligned assumptions and will allow the team to recognize and react to changes that impact the assumptionHere’s an example: A few years back I inherited a marketing plan for an enterprise software application that was sold through a direct sales force. Until that time that type of...
Should Only Startups with Products Get Funded?

Should Only Startups with Products Get Funded?

The “trend” of startups without a well-defined product idea getting funding was discussed in a recent Forbes blog post. Here’s an excerpt: Having some kind of notion what line of business your fledgling company might want to pursue used to be a prerequisite to raising capital. Now, it’s a mark of hubris. You don’t tell the market what it needs; you gently offer it a series of options, which are less viable concepts than ritual sacrifices aimed at cultivating the favor of the start-up gods. It’s called “iterating.” The gist of the post is essentially this: if there’s no product, there’s nothing to invest in, yet people seem to be investing anyway and OMGITSABUBBLEWE’REALLGONNADIE!! (ok, I’ll admit my version has extra drama). The post doesn’t offer up much to back up the thesis that startups with no specific product idea are getting funded left and right (positioning Instagram as a typical startup is, in my opinion, bonkers) but it raises an interesting question – is there really value in a company that doesn’t have an offering? Suppose you invested in a company with a product, that later changes the offering significantly – does that mean you screwed up? Pivots aren’t new. Admitting we do them is. I’ve been involved in loads of version 1 product concept/development/launch exercises I’ve yet to see one where the offering didn’t significantly change after initial customer feedback. At what point in the product life-cycle these “pivots” occur however is shifting earlier and earlier as most self-respecting entrepreneurs have read Steve Blank and are now embracing the concept of early customer feedback and “customer development”. If...

Weekend Startup Marketing Reading April 20

I’ve been on vacation this week and spending more time on the beach than on the internet. That said I did come across a couple of neat posts this week. Enjoy! William Mougayar of engagio had a great post over on StartupNorth this week about his lessons learned over the past 3 years. I agree with a lot of what he has to say here about relationships, the danger of believing your own story if nobody else does and how helping people is important. I don’t agree with him that selling to enterprises is a dead end – but I do agree that it’s very, very different from selling to individuals. (full disclosure, I am an advisor to engagio) Mark MacLeod at startupCFO had a nead post called Vision can Come Later talking about startups that start as services businesses that later transition to product businesses and the resulting domain expertise that comes with that. His thinking is very much in line with mine on that topic – there is no substitution for hands-on market experience. The Content Marketing Institute has a summary of the results of the Brandpoint 2012 Digital Content Marketing Survey with some interesting data around social content, outsourcing and storytelling. Earlier this week I posted about what startup folks are looking for in a marketing hire. MarketingProfs has a related post this week called 7 Traits of an Ideal Marketer. I agree with all of this in particular the desire to have marketers that have had some sort of sales training and also the need for great writing skills. That’s it for this week. I’ll...
6 Skills That Will get you a Startup Marketing Job

6 Skills That Will get you a Startup Marketing Job

I get about 4 calls a week from people looking to hire a startup marketer. The skills startups are looking for in a marketing hire are remarkably consistent. These are the skills I hear about the most and how you might easily get them. Here’s what startups are looking for in a marketing hire: Content creation – Folks that can create engaging, relevant content are in short supply. Most are looking for writing skills but being able to create video, build infographics and create presentations are desirable skills too. Bonus points if you are a decent public speaker and can represent the company well on video (and face to face). Community management – Great social media marketing programs require folks that can work with the community to help build an engaged audience. Social media skills are important here but equally important are good people skills, especially around relationship building. Analytic skills  – Companies are getting better at tracking their marketing efforts through clicks, conversions, impressions, keywords, links, mentions, along with more traditional pipeline stage tracking measurements. Being able to not just gather data but make sense of it is a skill startups are looking for. PR contacts – Later-stage startups might use outside PR help but most are getting the word out to blogs and news outlets on their own. Having a set of relationships with key influencers in a particular market makes you very valuable to a startup. E-mail marketing – Still the cornerstone of most digital marketing programs, email programs are getting smarter and more sophisticated. Marketing automation tools from simple things like MailChimp through to more...
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