Marketing tips for start-ups


 Marketing is one of, if not the most important aspects of business. Bankruptcy courts are all too familiar with the phrase ‘build it and they will come’ — the truth is, the customers will only come if your firm delivers exactly what they want and makes sure they know about it.

Marketing impacts business at nearly every aspect of the product cycle. Market research allows you to find a need which you can profitably solve and allows you to know in advance whether people will buy your product. A marketing plan allows you to devise a useful way of promoting your new product or service, in order to get the phone ringing and orders coming in. Finally, marketing analysis lets you look at the effectiveness of your efforts in order to spend your time, money, and effort efficiently — instead of wasting it on things which don’t produce results.

Market Research

Key to launching any new product is market research. This is the process of collecting data about your market and identifying where you will be able to profitably satisfy a demand. For most businesses, market research is critical because launching a new product or service is costly, but there are so many variables to each new product that “flying blind” might as well be playing the lottery. Therefore, market research makes it possible to see the territory before you venture onto it.

Market research is divided into two types, each with two different goals.

The most common, cheapest, and easiest form of market research is desk research. Sitting at your desk, you can look at available information from your own records as well as what you can find on the Internet in order to get a picture of the market.

More involved, but also more valuable, is field research. Classical field research might be going out and surveying potential customers or watching them shop, but there are other less-time consuming ways also.

Young Entrepreneurs’ Tip: A simple way of doing field research cheaply and easily is with PPC advertising. You can buy “pay per click” ads from search engines which advertise a product idea. (When someone clicks on the ad, send them to a lead capture page inviting them to find out about the product when it is announced.) Depending on which ads get the most clicks, you can see where there is demand.

Some savvy companies also run crowdfunding campaigns as a form of market research. After all, if enough people are willing to fund a campaign, then there’s probably longer-term demand also.

Both field and desk research can be either quantitative or qualitative. The former looks to produce hard numbers (e.g. how many people are likely to buy?) whereas the latter produces more general, but often more useful, insight – e.g. what do our customers want?

The Marketing Plan

Your marketing plan lays out ahead of time what elements will make up your promotional strategy. Without a plan, you run the risk of going off course as you focus on details and lose sight of the final destination. Also, the plan lets you determine ahead of time whether what you’re about to do makes sense — something which is particularly important if you’re new to marketing or business in general. It’s very easy to get distracted by online marketing ‘fads’ and end up spending money in places which don’t produce the necessary return on investment. For example, as inexpensive as online marketing is, we all like to get physical things (such as giveaways). Ask yourself, what will get the most goodwill from your customers — some Facebook stuff or a free water bottle?

In essence, your promotional plan consists of seven elements:
– Your target market, the people to whom you intend to sell
– Your plan’s objectives, which are the things you want to achieve
– The marketing tactics you will use to promote your product to your target market(s)
– The steps you will take and people you will involve in implementing these tactics
– The amount of time you estimate each step will take, since not much ever happens without a deadline
– The budget you are allocating for your marketing
– How you’ll evaluate the results of your promotional effort

Marketing Analytics

The last step is often overlooked, but it can produce some of the best return of any aspect. You want to analyse your marketing and promotional plan to determine whether it produced the results you expected, and which promotional methods produced the greatest results. For more information on marketing analytics, see a book called “Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins. The process of analysing your promotional effort does not have to be complex, but the results are often shocking. You will likely find that only a small part of your effort produced the bulk of the sales, which in turn allows you to save a great deal of money next time.

Alex Pejak is an economist currently working on a few projects in Australia. She is passionate about market research and project management. She is also interested in topics related to business IT and career development.

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