Writing your first startup marketing plan might be a challenge if you don’t have a formal marketing background. To make your life easier, we’re sharing a handy template to walk you through the process, plus some useful tips from an experienced Canadian startup marketer.
Andrea Lown is a serial entrepreneur with over 15 years of marketing experience – growing startups from the ground up primarily through digital marketing. She is currently Partner and Director of Marketing and Strategy at Digital Coconut which helps travel and tourism-related clients to drive more bookings starting with stunning photos, videos and other visuals. I first met Andrea while we were both working at AOL Canada, and it has been a pleasure to inspire each other in our own personal digital endeavours ever since.
I spoke with her last week over coffee to get her insight into what a startup should consider when crafting their first marketing plan.
1. Research your target market before you write the plan.
Lown says that the first step is to understand your customer and the problems that your product can solve for them. “It’s important to develop a buyer persona around who they are, where they are, their challenges and their motivations to buy,” she says. “The rest of your plan (i.e. the tone of your ad copy, your media plan and other tactics) and required budget will flow from there.”
She recommends that startups use free online resources like HubSpot to find webinars and worksheetsthat guide you through the persona development process.
2. Track and measure success from day one.
Lown believes that it’s better to spend more time up front to “track if your plan is working or not. More emphasis on tracking early on will save you time and money in the long run.”
She also suggests that startups create marketing plans in shorter cycles. “Do a month-long plan versus a year-long plan and set metrics and benchmarks to measure success and build from there,” says Lown.
3. Stay focused.
As a startup, you have a limited set of resources and you need to be extremely focused on how to allocate your time. “You cannot execute every tactic in your plan all at once,” says Lown. Instead, she says “startups should pick one social media channel or marketing tactic and grow your audience or customer base there. If it’s working, you can launch another channel or tactic two weeks later. It all comes down to execution. Sink your teeth in, grow your expertise in that area and then develop a tactical attack plan for the next initiative.”
4. Hire experts (or become one yourself).
Finally, Lown says that many startups hire interns to take over parts of the marketing plan that they don’t have the time for internally. “This can be a huge mistake if you aren’t an expert in that area yourself, or don’t have the time to train an intern effectively,” says Lown.
She suggests that startups “either invest in an expert who you can trust to hand over control for part of your plan, or invest the time to become an expert yourself.”
She also believes that startup marketing is often best done in-house and that entrepreneurs cannot operate in a vaccum. “Otherwise, you miss out on use-cases if you are not at least going externally to talk and ask questions of your target market. Don’t neglect feedback,” she says.
If you have a great business idea but still ned help putting your plan together, we have a free business plan and marketing plan templates to help you get your big ideas down on paper.