9 Insanely Helpful Ways To Keep Startup Marketing Lean And Effective

Reading Time: 6 minutes

As a startup founder or CEO, you need to run a lean operation which can get the promised growth fast. You have secured your round of funding; you want to get out there and make the most of the plans that you have outlined and secured an approval. But, we have also seen how yesteryear unicorns are going through markdowns or downrounds.

You want to make sure that your marketing is geared for delivering the growth, develops and executes programs which run fast and have the most impact.

Find below the ways by which you can keep your marketing team and programs, lean and efficient.

Focus on core objective – conversions

There could be multiple goals floating around: Generate traffic, generate leads, convert to prospects and then sales or convert a ready list into sales – whatever is the objective, you need to focus on the One Thing, which generates the most impact in your business. Your One Thing is led by your commitments to the investor team in your last review meeting or funding round. If it is traffic generation then focus on getting the maximum number of people coming to the site or place. If it is Gross Merchandise Value then with traffic you need fast conversions, and hence, marketing efforts will focus on conversions and promotions.

A big hairy goal can then be made byte sized for actions. How?

Break the mountain into pieces

Start with a goal drill down into monthly goals.

Based on the Focus, which you have decided, break the overall target into monthly goals. Then, convert them into weekly deliverables. These should be on your screen or in front of you every time. This Focus, also, makes sure that teams are not working on various nice-to-have items. One team is working on one goal.

Now, break down the weekly deliverables into daily tasks.

Checklist your way to success. Checklists are the number one difference between a highly efficient and inefficient operation. A pilot in any airline swears by his checklist and hence has a higher success ratio.

Checklists are the number one difference between a highly efficient and inefficient operation Click To Tweet

A Checklist also helps in guiding your focus to the things which have the maximum impact.

Focus on the One thing TODAY

What will make the maximum impact on the business today, then tomorrow and day after?

Based on your cascade from Core objective to monthly goals to weekly deliverables, every day you need to prioritize those things which will generate the maximum impact. Again, the power of the few gets amplified when you work on the most impactful item now. When you meet any of your team members, ask them, what is the most impactful thing, you are working on today? Be ready with your answer for what is the most impactful for you too? Ideally, what is most impactful for you should be the same as the marketing person, the only difference would be the actions you are taking.

Once we are clear about what we want to do, then we can use the right media to amplify the message.

Use social media to amplify the message

You must be already on social media, however, have you prioritized it? I sincerely hope that you are not present in all the channels because you need to create buzz. The first decision of which social media you need to be must be decided by where your audience is.

Your customer profile decides which social media you need to focus your marketing on Click To Tweet

Once you zero onto the one medium or max two media, you need to tailor the content and programs depending on the medium. The campaigns you would do LinkedIn would be vastly different from the ones done on Instagram.

Ask your team to follow some of the big social media mavens out there who have tons of content on how to boost your social media efforts.

Keeping your social media efforts focused on one or max two will go a long way in keeping your team lean and your programs impactful.

This focus will help you in testing which messages work best in which media.

What are you testing today?

Treat every campaign ideas as a test and compare two different campaigns.

We have all heard about A/B testing.

However what lies at the heart of this is the testing mindset. By daily setting up tests, over three months’ time, your team will have enough data not only on the customers’ habits and preferences but also on which marketing programs work and why. Testing also removes the emotional attachment to “pet projects” and trust me everyone in marketing has a pet project.

Help the team develop a testing mindset 

With the data you have, you can allocate more funds to the programs which are delivering your objectives at the best cost-benefit equation.

Testing also brings excitement in marketing and the learning improves helping them get better every day at what they are doing. It is just like your product team which is testing every day and churning out “beta” ideas.

Do your marketing in permanent Beta mode Click To Tweet

This testing will lead to a calendar of activities.

Calendar for Marketing Programs

While it is exciting to try many programs and ideas, it can quickly become a distraction and sap energies. A calendar should guide the list of programs. Just like big blogs and social media have editorial calendars, the marketing effort needs to have a marketing calendar where every program in the month should lead to the monthly goal. The monthly goal decided the content and nature of the online and offline campaign you have. I would strongly recommend THINK DIGITAL FIRST. How does your campaign weave into our target customer’s online life? The monthly goal decides the content of the tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn stories and the Instagram posts that you do.

Once you decided on the what and the tone of the content, the next step is sequencing the messages. Having a calendar of online activities creates buzz but more importantly, drives traffic to the call to action that your campaign is directing the target customer towards.

You have a Call to action in every campaign, right?

Don’t create campaigns only for entertainment – create for conversions Click To Tweet

With CTA embedded in every campaign, over time, you will develop insights and learnings into the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Continuous Learning

Make the team read a marketing best practice or a social media blog every day and note down the action points.

As a startup, you are not wedded to any brand manual or global marketing program which large companies have. But, you also miss out on the learnings and best practices these companies have. You level the field by having a learning hour for you and your marketing team every day. Ideally two hours. Listen to podcasts when driving, take notes on your voice recorder. Read the biggest influencers in your space and social media.

Most importantly, develop testing ideas from your notes and learnings. If you can learn and test 10 new ideas for marketing, every day, imagine what it would do to your marketing capability by the end of the year? You would have tested more than 3000 marketing ideas. Talk about the compounding effect.

This testing and a ready bank of ideas will make sure you will operate at a speed which will blow your competition away.

Make Speed Your Strongest  Weapon

Action over Anticipation. Be Agile.

As a Startup, your lean structure helps you in taking decisions faster. If you are clear about the One thing which is going to drive your business for this year, this week and today, and you have a calendar for your online activities ready, then, there should be no reason why you should churn out your programs at a rapid pace.

To deliver the pace, Make sure that you are hiring the right people. Once you have cultivated the testing mindset, you can roll out the programs in beta mode, get results and if it is working, increase it to scale.

Scale should also include feedback from your customers on what is working and what is not. You don’t need elaborate research for this. Have built-in feedback systems inside your campaign. Call a sample of customers every week and test your assumptions. Ask them what is working, what is not working?

This feedback will not only increase the pace of your campaigns and positive results, but it will also, make you nimble in your fight against the giants.

Be the David in the vs. Goliath game

Move with speed and in fail fast mode. Know your strengths

Malcolm Gladwell points out some interesting aspects in his book David vs. Goliath. David wins more times than Goliath. The trick? Find your unique niche and play by your rules. While Goliath had a sword (good for close range combat where size and strength would help), David had a slingshot (the shepherd’s tools). He also ran towards Goliath probably unsettling him with this offensive. The slingshot helped him to aim from distance, fire and keep moving.

Find what makes you best and do it faster and harder.

Don’t aim for the best marketing. Aim for faster marketing. Click To Tweet

Get your solutions faster to the customer. Get the feedback faster. Learn and adapt faster.

Use your nimbleness and agility to your advantage. While the big guys will take weeks if not months to turn around campaigns, you turn around campaigns in days.

Use the testing mindset to test various ideas and then make them work harder and faster.
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Do You Want To Know the Secret Of Effective Marketing In Small Business?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Just Start.

If there is one proven way to have effective marketing and jumpstart growth in your small business, it is: Action over anticipation.

We are wired for taking action – but often only under fear. We all know about the fight or flight response.

But given time, we also have a tendency for “false perfection”.

Why false?

Have you noticed that nature has no pure circles or squares or triangles? They are often oval or rhomboids – slightly bulging at edges.

It is our desire to be perfect hence, we create the perfect circle and squares.

While it is good in science, it is bad in business.

Here’s how:

Being perfect assumes that everything will go exactly as per planned. That whatever is planned will definitely result in the outcome which we want.

Really?

It is said that after the first two chess moves, there are a million options by which the game can turn out. And this only with 64 squares and two players.

Now think of the marketplace with thousands of customers and hundreds of suppliers.

Perfection often leads to analysis paralysis. The need to have a beautiful, logical solution leads to endless debates on the correct step to be taken.

Perfection often leads to analysis paralysis. Click To Tweet

In the end, nothing moves.

I learnt this lesson once.

My boss used to love asking questions. On every campaign, we used to design; he would ask ten questions. Once replied, they would lead to 10 more questions and so on. One day, I decided that I would start it as a pilot project, and we will keep answering his questions. After two months, he asked, “By the way, what happened to that X campaign?” I replied “well, we started as a pilot project and got some good learnings from it and now in a better position to answer your concerns” He paused for a while and then said “you did the right thing. Let’s go national”.

The market and the customer are the best ways to understand whether something works or not.

We can have endless boardroom discussions, but it has no comparison to the rich learnings in the market.

Nothing teaches you better than the marketplace. Click To Tweet

Taking Action does not mean that you launch a half-baked product or dump low-quality stuff in your channels.

Have a testing mindset within the team so that no one is wedded to a particular idea or an approach.

Help the team develop the testing mindset by asking the right questions in meetings.

Run pilot projects, do A/B testing, check in one channel before going national, but Start.

It means beyond a point, stop the endless planning. Just start.

If you have an option between Action and one more round of planning, Just Start Click To Tweet

Check this article for how an owner of a successful online business prioritizes Action over endless debates -> Slideshare CEO

What are You going to Start Today?

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Do One Thing

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“If a thing is worth doing, then it is worth doing well.”

If a thing is worth doing, then it is worth doing well. Click To Tweet

We often hear this. Then, why is it that, when it comes to our business we tend to get scattered?

Have you walked out of a meeting where a ton of initiatives have been thrown, all exciting, project maps worked out and you are all fired up? 6 months later, you find you are nowhere and all the initiatives are only taking time and not making any money?

I have been in a major initiative where there were 42 initiatives running at the same time. Yes 42! I still remember the painful meeting reviews where nothing was progressing and everyone’s nerves were frayed. Only pet projects were moving and the impact of those on business was still debatable.

I was high strung, as so much time was invested and very little was achieved.

Against this, I remember we were in the midst of transition of a Free to Air Television to a subscription channel. It was a mammoth project involving satellites, people on the ground, advertisers, the works. But, since the objective was only one, all the moving parts were clearly aligned to one objective. And if they were not, they were ruthlessly weeded out.

The Lesson is very clear: Do one thing but do it very well.

Having one initiative at a time, makes sure that all the parts in the organization are focused on delivering it. Remember for a lot of people this itself is extra work. For the production or service delivery guy or sales guy on the ground, this is one more item he needs to finish every day. All this within the same time available and with no respite on the daily deliverables.

Having one project makes sure that to each and every person, you are delivering only one message. This helps every one know what is most important to you and to the business.

It brings in speed and ruthless efficiency. It acts as a building block to the organization on which future success is built.

Do one thing but do it really well Click To Tweet

What action do you need to take to bring this focus? What would stop you to bring this focus?

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