Conversion. Search Engine Marketing. Taglines. PPC. Brand experience. When you’re just starting out, the world of marketing and branding can seem overwhelming. There are so many approaches to getting your company and product seen that it becomes difficult to know where to start. At the fourth session of 1871’s Groundwork series -- a set of public workshops focusing on foundational topics for fledgling entrepreneurs -- Reva Minkoff of Digital4Startups, David Kelbaugh of Tacklebox Brand Partners, Shirley Yang of Muses, and Solomon Thimothy of Clickx broke down the best approaches to creating a strong branding and marketing foundation for startups.
Photo Courtesy of Pexels
Your Brand Is Not Just Your Logo
Branding certainly emcompasses visual elements like the name of your company, your logo, your website color scheme, but a more contemporary definition, according to Kelbaugh, is “how you’re remembered.” Using Zappos’ approach to customer service as an example, Yang echoed Kelbaugh’s sentiment and added, “branding is also what you stand for.”
Kelbaugh encouraged early-stage startups to avoid the trap of perfecting their logo and focus instead on their mission statement, vision, values, goals, elevator pitch, and their ‘why.’
“Think of how you want to be remembered and sell off of that. Why your company exists is more important than what it sells. It’s never been easier to start a business - the barriers to entry are low - which means that it’s a hypercompetitive market. Everyone is jockeying for attention and influence. The one thing that is going to make you stand out is your brand. Branding separate your from the competition and gets you the credibility you need,” said Kelbaugh.
And make sure that your public persona matches your company’s mission and values. Potential customers are Googling founders, not just their companies.
Do Your Research
It’s important to know what the competition looks like, so you can differentiate your brand. Check out their mission and values along with their visual identity. But don’t stop there! There are dozens of free and paid services that can get you additional intel on your competitors. One website, SimilarWeb, reveals how companies generate website traffic - for the low cost of zero dollars. “If you think someone is doing their marketing right, it [SimilarWeb] will reveal how they’re doing it,” said Kelbaugh.
A suggested list of additional websites and platforms for marketing analysis can be found here.
Track Early and Often
Data reigns supreme. You’re only doing part of your job if you’re not digging into the nitty gritty findings from Google Ads. The data you find can accelerate your growth and make you stand out from the competition.
“If you can get your hands dirty with the data, you’ll go a lot faster a lot quicker. You need to be able to dig into the data. Start honing in on it early - check your dashboards every day. If you start making data-driven decisions, you’ll get to where you want to go a lot faster,” said Thimothy.
But data doesn’t only come from website traffic. There are also lo-fi strategies to increase customer loyalty and retention. Yang has an Excel document that lists her best customers with details like their birthday. “Feature and give rewards to your most loyal customers,” explained Yang. “It’s important to build relationships. Companies and businesses come and go, but human relationships never change.”
Organic or Paid?
One approach to generating a customer base is paying to acquire users. Standing strongly on the side of paid marketing, Thimothy argued that “it doesn’t matter if you’re a scrappy startup. You can do facebook ads for 100 bucks. You should test paid media earlier, so you can figure out if what you’re saying is actually working with your audience.”
Kelbaugh added that paid marketing also boosts awareness, along with sales.
Yang, meanwhile, had a different take. “There is an acquired customer and then there’s retention and engagement. You can’t just acquire to acquire – you have to acquire to engage. One part of retention and engagement is the virality of your product or app. Built-in internal virality is part of your retention and engagement.”
If you do plan to use paid marketing, Yang encouraged companies to look at their Customer Lifetime Value to Customer Acquisition Ratio (CLV:CAC). The general consensus was that a 3:1 ratio (paying $100 for a lifetime value of $300) is a great target.
Live in the Now
To cap off the night, Minkoff asked the panelists to name three things everyone in the audience should do when they get home to enhance their marketing and branding efforts.
Get to know your competitors. If they’re successful, beg, cheat, borrow and steal from them.
Complete a brand concept - why do you exist and why should people believe in you and what you sell?
Create a brand concept - what does your brand stand for and believe in?
Start doing paid marketing.
Figure out your numbers and track data.
What is your 'wow moment?' When should people start loving your product? It needs to take less than 30 seconds.
Who is your superuser? What is that prototype? Determine who loves you the most and amplify that times 10.
Create a marketing budget, divide it up, and create goals based on what you allocate.
Branding and marketing is an art and a science. To get ahead of your competitors, you need to know not only your value, but also your values, which, combined with data, will accelerate your growth and put your product in the hands of your target audience.
Interested in more startup insights? Then make sure you check out our recap on the second workshop in the Groundwork series, 5 Funding Pointers from the Pros.