Startup Advice

Sales won’t just happen: Ten steps to light your marketing fire

Vinne Schifferstein Vidal /

I have worked with startups for many years and the common theme I have come across is for countless brilliant startup founders, their main focus is on their product.

When meeting them, they tell the most inspiring stories about the pain points of their target audience and how their product will solve these. Often they have a visionary streak, telling me how certain behaviours or industries will dramatically change within the next few years because of their innovations.

But when I ask them ‘how are your sales?’, often there is a silent sigh.

In my experience, sales, and more frequently marketing, ends up being an afterthought for too many startup founders. Only when the money is beginning to run out and the next fundraising round is around the corner will they start prioritising the commercial aspect of their startup.

I’m not saying vision and innovation are replaceable characteristics, but unless a startup has a way of getting the attention of potential customers, they run the risk of failure before even taking off.

For the founders that can relate to this experience, here are 10 steps that will help you get your hands dirty with marketing and sales. You can implement these steps quickly — fail fast and learn faster in a structured manner.

Analyse your market

1. Defining your market

It all starts with defining your market and identifying market problems. You’ve probably done this already for your product — so hopefully this is an easy one.

2. Segment your market

Zooming into that market one level deeper. How is your market segmented? And what segment will you prioritise first, and why? It sounds simple, but asking and answering these types of questions helps not only you but also your team to forge and follow a clear path.

3. Analyse your competitors

Lastly, you need to live and breath your competition. Now, you have done this for your product I’m sure, but don’t stop there  you need to do it from a commercial point of view too. What is your main competitor’s marketing and sales strategy? What tactics are they using? How can you stand out?

Research your audience

4. Create personas

Again, something you’ve probably already done for your product is creating personas. Take another look at them and add elements that are relevant to marketing and sales. Think about what media they use, when they are receptive to contact, and who and what influences them.

Ideally, you build these personas on the back of the interviews you have with your target audience, rather than just googling some ‘facts’. The less speculative you are the more valuable your research will be.

5. Map out the buying cycle

Go deep when it comes down to the buying cycle. You want to really understand every step your target audience goes through. What triggers an interest? How do they recognise they have a problem? What do they look at when comparing solutions or making a buying decision? Who are the decision makers and who are the stakeholders?

6. Map out the user journey

Map out what the user journey looks like throughout this cycle.

7. Conduct pricing research

And lastly, often forgotten even by very experienced marketers, conduct proper pricing research!

Pricing is a science, and not a finger-in-the-air exercise.

You can use a simple cost-based pricing model or a value-based pricing model. Regardless of which one you choose, it is beneficial to understand what pricing models your competitors use and to get a feeling for what your prospects are willing to pay for your product. There are multiple pricing research methods available to conduct quantitative research to set your price, depending on how sophisticated you would want to go.

Commercial strategy

8. Build your proposition

All this research and analysis becomes valuable input to build your proposition. This is my favourite positioning template.

9. Touchpoint strategy

Based on the buyer and user journey research, create a touchpoint strategy. Consider what media you will use to reach your target audience, and what your message will be. Every touchpoint you have with your prospect is a potential to build a relationship and sell.

10. Marketing and sales plan

Finally, after all that, it’s time to create a good, old-fashioned marketing and sales plan.

Up next

I will go into more detail on what a good marketing and sales plan looks like in my next blog post. If you want to know how to implement this plan to start generating some solid leads and sales, watch this space!

NOW READ: Six ways to nail your digital marketing strategy, from GlamCorner co-founder Dean Jones

NOW READ: Rather than paying thousands of dollars, here’s how nine-month-old business SkilledSmart did its own PR

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Vinne Schifferstein Vidal

Vinne has global experience growing digital B2B and B2C businesses and in-depth expertise in marketing, publishing and SaaS. She has worked with many startups and scale-ups across the globe, leading fast-growth digital businesses for over 15 years.

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