The best way to market a startup or small business

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What’s the best way to market a startup or small business

It’s a question that I see almost every day.  Entrepreneurs looking for the “best” way to market a product, service or business.  They’re looking for a silver bullet.  The problem is there isn’t one.  Depending on which “expert” you follow, the future is social media marketing; or content marketing; or digital marketing; or any number of other terms with the marketing suffix.

At the core of each and every one of them is the need to compel a specific person or group of people to take a defined commercially-valuable action.

Strategy trumps everything

Compelling somebody to take a specific commercially-valuable action is complex.  There is no single way to do it.  It depends on the desired outcome, the action you need somebody to take.  Requires understanding why they would take it and what they need in order to take it.  It also requires asking them at the right time, using the right communications tool.

The strategy is unique for every startup or small business. For every market segment.  Every product or service.  In every customer demographic.  That’s not to say that there isn’t overlap or insight that can be learned from one strategy and used as part of another.  But there is also no guarantee that because it worked once it will work again.

Build, test & measure

The best marketing strategy for a startup or small business is the one that delivers the required commercially-valuable action.  The best – and quickest – way to find what works is to experiment.

First, identify a commercially-measurable outcome. Next, develop a working hypothesis: what do you think the right strategy is. When you have a hypothesis identify the assumptions you’re making. What’s the action you need somebody to take? How do you position the product or service so that you communicate the difference between it and competitor products? What does your call to action need to be in order to compel somebody to take a commercially-valuable action? Finally, how do you deliver the call to action?

When you have your assumptions you can decide which one is the riskiest. Which assumption will cause the failure of your strategy first? When you have the riskiest assumption you can test it.

Stop Marketing Like A Large Enterprise

There is a trend for commentators to use examples of successful marketing strategies from large organizations as an example for startups and small businesses. It’s a flawed approach. Large organizations have big budgets and well-staffed teams – both internally and externally. They have both runway and manpower – two commodities that startups and small businesses don’t.

I explain more in a post called ‘Stop Marketing Like a Large Enterprise…’