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Marketing : The starting point for Startups

I was invited by Limerick City Enterprise Board to address the second monthly meeting of the Startup Network Resource which took place this morning (Friday 4th March) in the Boardroom of Limerick Youth Services, Glenworth Street. The network has been established in conjunction with the Paul Partnership to provide a networking platform for new businesses and those in the pre-enterprise phase. The title of my presentation was ‘Marketing : The starting point for Startups’. (slides below updated in 2013).

 

 

Here are a few points that we discussed today:

 

1. Everybody in your business is involved in marketing. Every time you communicate with a customer you are marketing.

 

My view is that Marketing is a philosophy that you must meet your customers needs so that your company makes a profit. Profit is a key word in this sentence. The presentation features a quote that ‘marketing is about things that help people to get to know us in ways that build understanding, trust and feelings that make them want to do business with our companies’. This is a line that I really like. It is from Beyond buzz: the next generation of word-of-mouth marketing By Lois Kelly.

 

2. The source of a businesses Unique Value Proposition can generally be related to Marketing

 

This is a powerful and difficult question: What is it that makes your product or service different, unique and most importantly will persuade people to buy from you?

 

Possible answers relate to elements of the marketing mix – the 7 Ps – being product, price, place, promotion, process, people and physical evidence:

 

• Superior and differentiated Product or Service

• Better Price or Value for Customer to include Smarter discounts, vouchers, or easier ways to pay

• Promotion - Branding, Advertising, Sponsorship, CRM, PR, Trade Shows that makes our product more popular or recognised in the market than our competitors.

 

3. The two key starting points for Startups in thinking about marketing are describing your Product or Service and understanding your Target Customer.

 

I think that the process of describing your product helps to clarify the problems that your business solves and to identify the profile of the ideal customer. As you consider these two critical issues, you will be formulating your marketing strategy by thinking about issues such as pricing and promotion. Your marketing strategy is simply your approach to all elements of the marketing mix to ensure that the company meets the needs of customers with the resources available (Philip Kotler gave a super talk on this at the London Business Forum – YouTube). One of my attendees shared the fact that they were initially offering a product which had a high specification and a price tag to match as this is what they wanted to deliver as they found it challenging and rewarding. But the customer who paid for a large number of end users to benefit from the product wanted a basic specification as it fitted their budget. A clear understanding of the customer needs helped the business to modify their offering and thereby increase revenue.

 

4. Your message is critical

 

As most businesses will tell you, referrals are hugely important while Word of Mouth is the best marketing ever. The difficulty with word of mouth is that it can be difficult to get people talking about you if they don’t fully understand what you do. The onus in on you to have a clear message. The FAB – features, attributes, benefits – tool provides a powerful format to formulate the description of your product. It will allow people to understand and remember your product so that they can tell other people about it. However it does require time to get right. FAB can be used in networking, pitches, websites and brochures.

 

5. Your reputation is so important for Services

 

The majority of startups are service businesses. I really like Blueprinting as a tool to think about the service that you offer in that it firstly focuses on the actions of the customer – you get to walk in their shoes. It then ties the experience of customers with the steps that need to be taken by staff to ensure that customers are satisfied with the service. The best businesses are those that have thought about the customer experience and procatively seek to delight them. One way to do this is to change your process. To illustrate this, I told the story of one experience with O’Mahonys bookstore in Limerick. I was looking for the Ray D’Arcy book ‘US’ to buy as a present for my wife for Christmas. There was huge demand for the book which was selling out every day. In a competing book retail store I was told that the book would be back in stock in a few days. In O’Mahonys after telling me that the book was sold out, I was asked if I wanted to reserve the book. I was delighted to be offered this facility. I got a text a few days later when the book arrived for collection. That is what I call service.

 

6. Format for a Marketing Plan

 

In addition to the traditional Marketing Plan structure, I have formulated ‘One Page Marketing Plan’ format which is further explained in this article.

 

There are a lot more points in the slides relating to Marketing your new business which I will return to in future posts. Comments and questions welcome.

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