Tips to Developing an Effective Marketing Strategy for Startups Tips to Developing an Effective Marketing Strategy for Startups
If you’re new to marketing and amid a startup, all of it can seem overwhelming. A lot of work goes into starting a business,... Tips to Developing an Effective Marketing Strategy for Startups

If you’re new to marketing and amid a startup, all of it can seem overwhelming. A lot of work goes into starting a business, developing and launching products, and running the day-to-day operations, so marketing often gets put on the back burner.

Harder still, some industries are dry, traditional, or “boring,” which are more challenging to market than industries with quirky, exciting, or visually striking products. For example, 2-layer vs. 4-layer printed circuit boards appeal to a niche audience.

Fortunately, it’s not only possible to market effectively in boring industries, but it can also be incredibly effective. Unfortunately, like you, other owners in boring industries struggle with marketing strategy, and some all but give up, leaving you with the competitive advantage.

Check out these critical tips for developing an effective marketing strategy for startups in boring industries.

Choose your Market Audience.

Casting a wide net with your marketing efforts not only burns through your budget, but it ensures that your message resonates with no one. Before you can develop a marketing strategy, you need to know who you’re marketing to.

At this point, you probably have a solid understanding of your target audience and who you want to do business with, but what about the rest of your team? And you have a good idea, but how much have you drilled down to determine the specifics of your ideal audience and buyers?

For example, Gerber Labs appeals to hobbyists, students, startups, and small businesses that need to order prototypes or small quantities of printed circuit boards.

Buyer personas help establish your ideal customer. These personas are fictional representations of ideal customers that are based on current data, existing customers, marketing research, and a touch of assumption based on knowledge, education, and experience. Buyer personas will help you understand your business challenges and the drivers of your ideal customers, such as what problems are they trying to solve?

These personas aren’t real people. Instead, they’re archetypes of real people that represent the different types of buyers you’re looking to target. You can use this information to refine your marketing strategy and messaging to reach different segments of your audience and connect with them at the right time and place in the buyer’s journey.

Create a Brand that Caters to Your Market Audience

Now that you understand your ideal audience, you can create a brand that speaks directly to them. Contrary to popular belief, a brand is more than a recognizable name and logo that distinguishes you from competitors – it’s the impression you leave on the customer.

Of course, brands do use assets like logos, colors, fonts, voices, and names to accomplish this, in part. However, your brand must be consistent, so it’s essential to establish the feeling you want to evoke in the customer and use that to inform the rest of your brand assets.

From there, you must:

Pick your Focus and Personality

Brands can’t be everything to everyone, so focus your attention and develop your personality around it.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What’s your unique value proposition and positioning statement?
  • What words do you want people to associate with your brand?
  • If your brand was a person — write a full description.
  • What descriptive metaphors will you apply to your brand so clients can find you?

These answers can help you define your brand and develop assets that communicate that message.

Choose a Brand Name

You may already have a brand name for your startup, but if you don’t or you don’t like the name you came up with, now is the time to change things up. Your name impacts your brand logo, domain, and marketing.– If you move forward with a name that isn’t quite right, it’s a significant process to change it.

Ideally, you want a name that’s difficult to copy and hard to confuse with your competitors on the market. In addition, if you plan to expand your product lines in the future, a broad name will make it easier to include different products under that umbrella.

Here are some brainstorming options to develop your brand name:

  • Make up a word like Pepsi did when trying to take over Coca-Cola
  • Rename any concepts and unrelated words
  • Use a literal description (The Cabinet Warehouse). Note that this is easier to imitate and confuse with other brands.
  • Use a metaphor (Buffer, Trojan)
  • Alter an existing word by changing, removing, or adding letters (Tumblr)
  • Create a long name with an acronym (HBO, DSW)
  • Combine two relevant words (Snapple for snappy + apple)

Remember that your brand name also affects your website’s domain, so compare your possible brand names with the available domains.

Check out what others think of your chosen name and ask around to other people in your business or your friends and family. You may not pick up on an unintended meaning, misinterpretation, or similarity, and it’s better to have it pointed out before you invest in the rest of your assets.

Write Your Slogan

A catchy slogan can do wonders for your brand. A brief saying tells customers what your brand does, and you can use it on your website header, business cards, social media bios, or anywhere else you want to make a significant impact.

Fortunately, slogans are one aspect of your brand that’s easy to develop and change in the future. Most big brands have gone through dozens of slogans over the years.

A good slogan is brief, catchy, and bold with the hopes of being associated with your brand.

Consider these concepts for your Slogan:

  • Stake your claim to your unique value proposition (Death Wish Coffee: “The World’s Strongest Coffee”)
  • Embody the customer’s attitude (Under Armour: “The Only Way is Through”)
  • Use a metaphor (Chevrolet: “The heartbeat of America”)
  • Embrace labels (Cards Against Humanity: “A party game for horrible people”)
  • Describe your product literally (Aritzia “Women’s fashion boutique”)

Choose Your Brand’s Colors and Fonts

You have a name and a personality, so now’s the time to reflect that in your brand’s visuals. Colors and typography are powerful, and you’ll be able to use these for your website, logo, and social pages. Once you choose, they should be consistent across everything you do.

For colors, be sure to choose a palette that isn’t too close to competitors – that can confuse customers. It’s also good to consider legibility, such as whether black or white will be evident over your color palette.

Take a similar approach with fonts. Generally, simple fonts are better, because you want to make sure customers can read them when they’re smaller or overlaid with complex video backgrounds. But, again, focus on only one or two fonts – more can be confusing to customers.

Design Your Brand Logo

A brand logo is probably the first thing that came to mind when you heard “brand.” With good reason, since a brand logo is the face of your company and will be used on nearly everything.

Ideally, you want a brand logo that’s distinctive, identifiable, and scalable (make sure it works as well, small and large). Then, think about all the places where you’ll have your brand, from your website to your social media profiles.

Most brands use a word logo and an abstract logo, like Google. Everyone recognizes the colorful Google word, and those colors are just as easy to recognize in the abstract circle format. Google was also able to leverage this color and design recognition for its other products, like the colorful triangle for Drive, the star for Photos, and the teardrop for Maps.

You can also consider mascots (Wendy’s), emblems (Starbucks), icons (Twitter), and combinations (McDonald’s).

Develop Your Branding

You have all your brand’s assets, so it’s time to develop a brand story that tells customers who you are as a brand, what you stand for, and what you’re hoping to achieve. This story will set the stage for every interaction your customer has with your brand.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What motivated you to start the business?
  • Why does your business exist?
  • What are you hoping to solve or contribute to the world?
  • What is the story behind how I came up with my business?

No matter your story, emphasize its uniqueness or humanity. Customers want to connect with the human aspect of a business, so tell the story of your unique mission, what you’ve overcome, or what motivated you to create a business or product.

Set Up a Digital Presence

With so much of the world moving to digital, customers expect businesses to have an online presence. Even if you plan to have most of your business done in a brick-and-mortar location, most customers will research your business online to learn more about the brand, customer reviews, and offerings.

This isn’t limited to retail and clothing brands – it happens with local restaurants, boutique hotels, community banks, and just about any other business you could think of. Your boring traditional business? People want to find you online, too.

Also, whether your brand is present online, customers will write reviews and share their experiences, good or bad. Think of it like word-of-mouth advertising, but on a much larger scale.

To start, you need a website. Besides social media, your website is one of the first places customers will visit to learn about your business. You can use plenty of DIY sites to create your website, or outsource the design to a professional.

Next, set up your social media pages. A presence on social media is a necessity in modern business, especially if you have a younger audience. Social media also allows you to share content and engage with your customers to build trust and learn more about serving them.

Fortunately, setting up social media profiles is easy. At first, it’s best to choose the platforms that have the majority of your audience. Next, you can set up business profiles with your website link, brand logo, and tagline, then you’re ready to start sharing videos and other content. Then, when it’s time to advertise, you’re ready to go.

Create a Budget and Stick to It

If you’re not careful, marketing spend can get out of control quickly. For every dollar you spend on advertising, you may justify it as an “investment.” This is especially concerning for startups, since you need to be prepared for unexpected financial obstacles more than legacy enterprises.

So, you need a budget to prepare for your marketing strategy. Here’s how to create an effective marketing budget for your startup:

  • Look at the big picture: Marketing budgets are essential at any stage, but remember that you’re likely to spend more during the startup phase than when you’re up and running. So, for example, you’ll be investing in brand assets and brand awareness campaigns more at the start than once you gain some traction.
  • Create a spreadsheet: Include all your current and anticipated operational costs, like professional fees, content outsourcing, sales, tax, and web hosting. This will show you what you have to work with regarding your marketing spend.
  • Prioritize spending: Getting a professional logo, and website design is a worthwhile investment. However, don’t try to stretch your budget with lackluster efforts across everything you want to do – focus on the essential investments first, then see what you can manage with campaigns.
  • Set limits: Don’t get carried away! Once you know what’s available for marketing spend, be strict and stick to your budget, so you still have money set aside for unexpected expenses.

Create SMART Goals and Track Progress

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

For example, a SMART goal could be to:

  • Increase organic traffic by 40 percent in a year
  • Create ten new sales-focused blogs in four months

As you can see, these goals are attainable and focus on a set number or amount and the time frame with which to reach them. Creating SMART goals gives your startup a sense of direction to develop your strategy, and more importantly, see if your efforts are working to achieve your goals. If they’re not, you can tweak your campaigns or strategies to get better results.

SMART goals have unique benefits for startups as well. In many startups, employees wear several hats to make sure everything gets done. For example, founders may be responsible for content, digital strategy, and product development, and the chief technology offer may be involved in the website design, social media management, and marketing.

Of course, most startups are all about product development and launch. This is where SMART goals come in – instead of trying to accomplish everything at once, SMART goals allow you to focus on mission-critical goals and tackle tasks with a strategic approach.

For example, for a new product launch, you can focus on the development and SMART goals like:

The best part is that initiatives like this take very little marketing spend – it’s mostly about time.

Start small and routinely check in with your goals and progress. Then, if you’re not getting the results you want, tweak your strategy or campaigns to see if you can create more effective efforts in the future.

Create Your “Boring” Startup Strategy

Marketing in a boring industry may be more challenging, but it’s not impossible. With these steps, you’re ready to develop your marketing campaigns and generate awareness for your startup.

Image Credit: Brad Neathery; Unsplash; Thank you!

Justin Ou

Justin Ou

Marketing Manager

Justin Ou is one of four Co-founders and Marketing Manager of Gerber Labs, an Orange County based engineering startup that is currently rolling out a platform that makes custom printed circuit boards (PCB’s) accessible to electrical engineering students, hobbyists and small businesses.

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