Lesson plan: is it too early to think of marketing my start-up?

Business coach Lisa Hughes on why marketing has to stay at the very top of your agenda

Why is marketing important for my company?
Marketing is absolutely key for any business because there is nothing more important than to attract customers because you are trying to grow your revenue and grow your customers. Marketing is actually understanding your market, knowing who your customers are, targeting them effectively, crafting messages to appeal to them and targeting them in a way that is really going to bring them to your business.

Should I have a marketing plan?
Absolutely. Keep it simple, you need a plan but that is really more about "Who are my customers? What problem am I solving? How am I adding value? What solution am I providing?" and then "Where are they right now and how can I connect with them in a way that's meaningful to them?" because you are looking to create awareness of your product, first of all, and then build that relationship between you so that when they come to buy, or need it, you are top of mind.

What are the key things to remember in my approach to marketing my business?
The most important thing is to keep your buyer persona or your target audience in mind, and really be connected to them and what their challenges or issues are. If in doubt, try something out, bring it to a bunch of people who are already customers of yours or who fit into your category and ask them questions.

What should I avoid?
Spending too much money is a really bad idea. Start small, and test. As a start-up you can get caught up in spending a lot of money which may not necessarily be working for you. Listening in marketing is so important, keeping an ear to the ground of what the customer sentiment is.

How much should I invest in marketing?
Look at every investment you make as a marketing investment. If you are building a website, that's a marketing investment. If you're investing in technology to better serve your customer, that's a marketing investment because you are creating a customer experience. If you look at everything with a marketing eye then all of your budget is marketing budget in some respects. How much you should spend is about what your objectives are.

How important are branding and design?
Branding is the thing that creates the emotional connection with the customer. However, it really depends who your customer is. If you're targeting silver surfers your Twitter account is not terribly important. If you are targeting time-poor moms in the supermarket with small children then what the packaging looks like actually is really important.

How do I approach marketing if my business grows?
Keep checking in. The biggest real danger as your company grows is that you start to become confident that you know the market and what your customer wants and you just may not. You have to stay connected because if you lose that connection you can't speak to someone in a real, authentic voice that's going to get to the heart of what their issues are. And the best brands stay close to their best customers.

Lisa Hughes is a coach with over 20 year’s experience in start-up companies and larger corporations.

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