Scaling Start-ups: The Marketing Sweet Spot

Following the same True North

Some of my most engaging conversations are those I have with fellow marketers. When we talk about strategies and actionable insights that create fresh avenues for growth and development, my ears open up and my mind suddenly fills with ideas and timelines. Iʼm a big supporter of operationalizing ideas while building a community of advocates.

One of the most telling experiences I’ve had in running a number of start-ups was finding the right person for developing the business after it has proven that the concept was feasible. When the ‘factory’ is built, the first product has been produced, the first PO has been released. I remember almost hearing the next question in my head, “Who can repeat and scale this process better than me?” Hiring someone with a strong marketing perspective and operational background helps a great deal. Fortunately, I didn’t have to learn an important lesson in investing in talent the hard way.

Following The Same True North: Real Life Marketing

The thing is, not every person is cut out to be both a marketer and a process-oriented production/delivery expert. My engineering background helped a lot at this point. Risk assessment and management are keys to unlocking any business’ growth potential. The ideas may be ripe and teeming with promise, but a practical, calculated approach to scaling operations and production levels come with long term benefits. A strong growth ally on any team would be someone that possesses the creativity to figure out ways of generating demand, engaging an audience and delivering the service using the most cost-effective tools and techniques.

“Everything is important but not everything is urgent.”

I remember hiring Vince Villamil about 11 years ago for Business Development. We hit it off on the first meeting and my mind just went on overdrive instantly when we started talking about his ideas for helping me scale outsourcing operations. He threw some questions my way that made me think hard about plans I’ve already set my mind to executing the following quarter. He was the weight that tipped the scale. This chap had the marketer’s language with a tactical mindset. He can sell an idea and do a mind map of the next 120 days post-implementation outlook in less than five sentences. No kidding! Yes, we didn’t agree on a few things but hiring Vince was a decision I’ll consider beneficial because of the way he processed growth ideas that complemented the way I envisioned growth. [ Vince is here. Go ask him plenty of questions!]

Another marketing approach I’ve learned in my start-up journey is akin to “building the plane while taxiing off the runway” or “lacing up my shoes while running on the tracks” — credits to Keith Reynolds VP Marketing at Austin Lawrence Group. This approach requires the careful application of a great deal of common-sense; Not all companies have the ideal landscape for implementing what, to it, seems like an ideal marketing strategy. It’s a rather coarse but reasonable approach that uses facts. There’s the art and science of business marketing . It is smart marketing that takes into account various factors that affect the implementation of a marketing plan. I’ve learned that it is critical to have a solid grasp of customer personas, buying stages, behaviors and motivations, and the company’s current tool stack to be able to execute, sustain and scale the tactics employed.

Purpose, People, Platform, Process

Prioritize. Test. Analyze. Execute. Analyze. Refine. Repeat. This sounds like it’s easier said than done. Tools, technology and the latest methodology enable marketers to use dynamic data to unlock insights on customer’s behavior and ever-evolving needs. In my humble experience continuous growth–however modest, happens when marketers focus on impacting every step of the customer journey, thus transforming the entire customer experience.

As a start-up, it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and do what everybody else seems to be doing. I’d say, look at your value proposition and start creating actual success stories based on those. Don’t be a rudderless boat. Make use of your data to determine paths to reach your audience and navigate customer behavior. Find out what’s working and what’s not. Test. Test. Test. Refine your approach, adjust your sails to better understand your buyer’s buying influences. Use insights to decide on whether to invest or kill marketing campaigns. Sometimes businesses–start-ups or enterprises, already have assets and tools sitting in their data storehouses waiting to be revisited, re-purposed or re-targeted. Do a regular inventory and see what you find in your treasure trove!