During our 8+ years, we have spoken to hundreds of start-ups for their digital marketing requirements. A few facts stand out.
(And by start-ups, here we are referring to all new businesses, both start-ups and new businesses of established companies).
The right time for a start-up to begin digital marketing
The right time is day 1 of the business. One begins by building an effective website. One also begins with a minimal – not full-blown – presence on social media (maybe a simple Facebook and a LinkedIn page).
The above is obvious. When does one do full-blown digital marketing?
Full-scale digital marketing should be begun after the business has completed the following steps: set up the team, developed the product or service, commenced manufacturing, sold the products to at least a few consumers and refined the product (if so required).
The other thing we see happening is start-ups first relying on sales teams to alone bring in the sales and deferring all marketing, digital included, for later. This is possible for B2B businesses.
In our experience, by the 3rd year, nearly all start-ups will do well to begin marketing: digital marketing to be precise. in particular, online campaigns which build the brand, get leads or online sales. Without this, growth can stall.
Why are start-ups preferring digital marketing over other (offline) marketing?
Start-ups are looking for low investment and high ROI/value for money, when it comes to marketing. On these counts, digital marketing scores over offline marketing.
However, this is not the only reason to prefer digital. Digital enables obtain valuable data about the market and customers. This is very valuable in tweaking strategies (product mix, target markets, pricing) early on.
Thirdly, in digital marketing, investments can be made in small incremental steps.
Fourthly, the planning/ start horizon is 15 days or less. Almost anything else: trade show, press ad, radio spot, will take far more.
What is one common mistake start-ups make when it comes to digital marketing?
The most common mistake we see start-ups making is doing sub-optimal investments. Whether it be a website or online campaigns, once you have decided to start digital marketing, you should not look for the cheapest option.
E.g. relying only on organic social media (posts on Facebook page), posting on free listing sites or using a freelancer to manage the website or to do SEO can be wasted.
Doing effective digital marketing requires multiple skills – content, design, tech and marketing – that are more likely to be found in a digital agency. Secondly, you will need online campaigns if you want to scale, not just organic posts. And campaigns need to be run/ tested for a minimum of 2 to 3 months, before you judge their outcome.
This is what we have learnt.