How important is it for startups to have a dedicated marketing person from day one? Very.
Nine out of 10 startups fail: CB Insights conducted postmortems of 101 startups, crunched the numbers and found that 14% of the failures were down to poor marketing and 23% due to not having the right team.
“Startups try and do the ‘marketing’ themselves. But the problem with that is they don’t really know what’s involved with marketing”
The products or services that you offer may be fantastic, but if nobody knows about what you do, how will anyone find out? Be it on a small scale – such as hiring someone to manage your social media – or on a larger scale with a full-time marketing manager, marketing from day one is essential for any startup.
It is not a job that can be half-done
When Rob Hall (pictured left) founded Wriggle (an app which offers real-time dining and event discounts around Bristol and London) he didn’t have a dedicated marketing person in place. By month two, he knew that things had to change and hired someone purely dedicated to Wriggle’s social media.
“Until then I was doing almost everything on my own – speaking to local restaurants and bars, project-managing the technology and managing our social media. It was hard to juggle all these things and grow our following at the same time. We had a marketing budget of zero so having a good Twitter account has been the chief driver of growth, and trusting that Dan [Waller, Wriggle’s social media maestro] will do a good job in interacting with people and grow our following to drive downloads has been vital.”
Cheryl Crichton (pictured right), who helps growing businesses stop wasting money on marketing, agrees that the job needs to be done properly from the outset – and believes that the nuances of marketing could be an issue for many business owners.
“Startups tend to put all their time, effort and energy into creating the product or service that they’re selling and then try and do the ‘marketing’ themselves. But the problem with that is they don’t really know what’s involved with marketing. There may well be a section in the business plan about how you are going to promote your company, but it’s important to get some help and guidance from a professional. Just as you’re an expert in your field, a marketer is expert in theirs.
“They [marketers] would never come and try and do your job, so why would you try and do theirs? I’d recommend buying in whatever expertise you can afford from day one, as it will save you time and money down the line.”
Startup owners will soon discover that there is not enough time in the day to both market and develop their business, and trying to do so may be a false economy. Having a dedicated resource in place whose sole job it is to increase reach and raise awareness of what you are doing will exponentially strengthen your startup’s chances of success.
Who to hire?
It is important to find someone who understands your brand and who can act as a conduit between you and your customer base, in most cases your marketer will be your voice. And that voice is, often, the first thing your target audience will hear from you. They have to fit with the ethos of the business, and be clear on what it is you stand for.
“I’d recommend looking for those with a specialism in B2C or B2B marketing rather than people who have experience with your product”
When looking for their person, Rob was eager to find someone creative: “We got lucky with Dan. He started as an intern whilst studying Classical Studies at Bristol University (through the University of Bristol internship programme) and he’s been an integral member of the team ever since. I was looking for someone creative, and Dan had his own blog and an interest in photography, and was really keen to learn.”
For Cheryl, it’s important to ensure that you choose a marketing expert with the right background: “I’d recommend looking for those with a specialism in B2C or B2B marketing, depending on your needs, rather than people who have experience with your product or service. So, for example, a marketer doesn’t have to know the ins-and-outs of exactly what you do to be able to advise you on your marketing; it’s much more valuable I think for them to understand the difference between selling to businesses or selling to the consumers.
“I would then suggest you try and shortlist at least three and then meet them. A candidate can look great on paper or great on a website but you have to like and trust them: these people are going to know the inner workings of your business, you’re going to be working with them very closely and they’re going to want to know everything about you otherwise they can’t help you grow.
“You should also have a look at who else they’ve worked with. If they say, ‘well, no, you can’t phone my clients’ then you know that there’s something wrong there. So talk to other people who have worked with them and find out how they’ve helped them.”
Be clear about the qualities and scope you want from your marketing person, and hire accordingly. There is no standard template to finding the right person as what may be right for one company could be completely wrong for another.
Marketing gets your product or service in front of the right people, leading to increased sales. Wriggle has achieved this via its targeted social media campaigns, while startups can also benefit from ensuring that the swathes of new customers that a marketing manager attracts are managed in the right way.
“Many startup owners don’t look at things through the eyes of a buyer, because they’re too busy running their business”
Rob went on to clarify just why Dan’s skills were so perfect for Wriggle:“Social media (Twitter in particular) has been our chief driver of downloads since we launched – Dan has been almost entirely responsible for managing and growing our following – and making Wriggle a central account in the Bristol Twitter scene.”
By choosing an expert in social media, Wriggle have managed to not only build a strong following, but to increase the number of downloads of their app.
It’s not just about increasing sales, though – it’s also about ensuring that these sales are achieved with the customer’s viewpoint in mind.
Says Cheryl, “A marketing person will look at the way people buy off you and recommend ways to communicate with them along that journey. Many startup owners don’t look at things through the eyes of a buyer, because they’re too busy dealing with suppliers and other aspects of running their business. Hiring a marketing person means that you can start thinking about the bigger view of your company and fine tuning customer touchpoints.
Do it from day one
Rob is adamant that having a marketing person from day one is imperative: “It’s vital to have someone in the team who can focus on getting customers from day one. Wriggle’s challenge is that we need to focus on talking to local businesses as well as end customers, and Dan’s arrival meant that I could trust someone to grow our audience and brand awareness, whilst I focused on other aspects of the business.”
“The right marketing person will help you to gain a long-term view on the reason for the business, rather than a day-to-day hacking away at the coalface”
Cheryl is of the belief that hiring the right marketing person from the very start can have huge long term benefits for any start-up too.
“They will help you to gain a long-term view on the reason for the business, rather than a day-to-day hacking away at the coalface. They should be able to keep you focused so that you’re not going off and trying things that maybe aren’t working, or are the wrong ‘type’ of activity, or are a waste of money. With a round, broad vision they can help you set quarterly goals and help you review them – so there’s a bit of mentoring and coaching in there as well. If they’re worth their salt they should also be able to review budgets and help you stop wasting your hard earned cash on the wrong type of marketing, or on activity that has been ill advised.
“Ultimately, they have the ability to look forward to give you something to aim for, rather than finding out what to do today.”
Having a marketing person on board from the beginning of your journey can make all the difference. The right person will help you to make sales, increase your customer base (both actual and potential) and build trust with your target audience.
Thanks to both Rob and Cheryl for taking the time to talk to us.
Image credit: Sprinter image by Phil McElhinney from London (Jeremy Wariner). Business vector designed by Freepik.
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