500,000 new companies launch every month in the U.S. alone. Despite that, 75 percent of venture capital-backed companies fail, and only 56 percent of startups will make it to year five. According to CB Insights, the top three reasons that startups fail are (1) there’s no market need, (2) they run out of cash and (3) they have the wrong team. What can you do to avoid this? Change your frame of mind. Think of marketing as an engine to grow your startup.
Truly connecting with visitors
Too often, founders believe that they will attract customers because they have a great product and a cool website. There are currently more than one billion websites in the world. Most get no visitors. It’s not enough to have a website. You need to have a clear message that tells visitors who you are and what they get from working with you.
Most websites provide lots of information and hope that visitors will click through and figure out who you are, what you do and if you offer something of value to them. Your homepage is your brand’s front door. Treat it as such. Don’t clutter it with internal-focused content. I only want to know two things: why am I here? And why should I care? You have six seconds to engage me before I leave.
If you don’t know who you are, it’s nearly impossible to convince someone else to purchase.
You don’t have a lot of time to cut through the noise. The sooner you build brand awareness of your startup through marketing, the sooner you can connect with your ideal customers and grow your company. Instead of hoping that customers will find you, let’s look at the four lean marketing pillars that will help build brand awareness and drive traffic to your website.
The four steps to power your marketing engine
Define your why
Brand awareness starts with a clear and well-communicated value proposition. What is your why? What makes you different from your competition? Hoping to figure it out as you grow is a costly mistake. Getting clear on your ‘why’ helps attract the best hires and the right team members – avoiding a startup failure.
Clarify your ideal customer
Most startups are a solution looking for a problem. If you don’t know who you want to work with, anyone is a potential customer. You run the risk of letting anyone and everyone dictate the business you’re in. Identify your ideal customer who is best aligned with your product and/or service. Take the time to fill out an empathy map so you can identify what matters to that customer. Look for a pain they struggle with – what keeps them up at night and the gain that you and only you can provide. If you find yourself saying, ‘sure, we can do that,’ stop. Go back to the first step.
Get clear on your messaging
Remember, if you’re speaking to everyone, you’re speaking to no one. Once you’ve identified your ideal customer and how you can relieve their key pain points, develop messaging focused on that. Build your homepage around your solution, not your amazing company or the wonderful people who work there. Save that information for your “about” page.
Build brand awareness
Your startup is an unknown, so your marketing goal is to bring foot traffic to your website and engagement on your social media feed. Find one platform where your customer spends their time and engage, engage, engage. I work with B2B CEOs and founders, so I focus primarily on LinkedIn. There are 722 million members on LinkedIn and 10 percent of them are decision-makers.
Want some tips on how to develop your online brand? Check out our interview with influencer Chell Porter.
Marketing isn’t a cost – it’s an investment in the future of your company
Word-of-mouth is not a substitute for marketing. This is especially true if you haven’t identified your ideal customer. Referrals are only as good as the people who are doing the referring. Think of marketing as a pie. Now imagine that you dedicate a tiny slice of that pie to marketing. Your pie will never grow bigger, and your marketing budget will stay the same. If you follow best practices and dedicate 10 percent of your gross income to marketing, your pie gets bigger. This means you’ll have more money to dedicate to marketing. Since marketing is the engine for your sales, you’ll get more sales, more customers, more revenue and scale faster.
Now, start your marketing engine!
About Orly Zeewy
Orly Zeewy builds the DNA of startup brands and helps founders close the marketing gaps that get in the way of scaling their business – in months, not years. Prior to starting her consulting practice, Zeewy ran the award-winning Zeewy Design and Marketing Communications firm for 14 years and has lectured at Wharton and taught in The Close School of Entrepreneurship at Drexel University, the Fox School of Business & Management at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania. Her book, Ready, Launch, Brand: The Lean Marketing Guide for Startups, was the number one new business book release in April 2021.