What Founders Really Need to Know About Start-up Marketing

In Revenue Capital

Growth stage start-ups move fast. We’ve talked a lot about the transition from founder-led sales to a founding seller or sales team. However, an often-overlooked aspect in this transition is standing up your first marketing engine.

Founder-led sales is typically built on relationships and being the subject matter expert. It is the perfect way to find early adopters of new technology, test with them, gather feedback and use that to start to widen the circle via word of mouth.

As the company then grows to a point of having a founding account executive or a small sales team, there is typically an expectation that sales should be able to “hunt” and build their own pipeline. While that’s a reasonable assumption, the reality is not always as linear as: hire salespeople, pipeline grows, revenue comes flowing.

Sales is Hard; Building a Pipeline for Something New is Even Harder

This is why creating the basics of a marketing engine is so critical even in the early stages. One of the biggest mistakes we see founders make with their marketing efforts is narrowing their focus squarely to leads. It’s not hard to see why they do this. After all, leads seem tangible.

But, the truth is that centering your strategy around leads in the early stages can cause more headaches than they’re worth. So, where should you direct your attention instead? Consider where sales teams devote their time, which is on growing revenue. Marketing should be no different.

Revenue as Your North Star

When you position revenue as the target for GTM teams, founders can get very practical with what they want from marketing. Here are three foundational elements that marketing should be running toward in a growth stage company to align sales and marketing in their path toward revenue:

1. Build and Nurture a Database
Like with any other area of business, your efforts are only as good as the data you’re using to inform them. So, as you create your database, aim for quality and accuracy. If you use bad sales data, the consequences can be far-reaching.

It impacts employee productivity and your company’s reputation. It has a crippling effect on revenue and business growth. According to Integrate, an average of 40% of B2B generated leads are invalid, incomplete, or duplicates.

With this in mind, start with clean data and put your attention toward defining your total addressable market (TAM) and ideal customer profile (ICP), then segmenting your data accordingly. Make sure you get the names and emails for the people your sales team should be talking to at a given company. It might sound basic, but getting this part right from the get-go will allow you to nurture, maintain and ultimately grow a rock-solid database that will serve your business extremely well for the long-term.

2. Create an Identity
Take the time to fully develop your brand identity and don’t be afraid to experiment, get creative, be scrappy and, most importantly, have fun. Hone in on what sets your brand apart in a crowded marketplace, and work to craft a distinct visual and narrative identity.

Make sure your identity is something that your target audience seems to gravitate toward, and something that you’re proud of. It should reflect your values and your vision, as well as being straightforward and customer-centric. Once you have a tight identity, your sales will be better positioned to grow. After all, one study found that 61% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand they recognize.

3. Generate Some Inbound
Inbound marketing is the ultimate way to make your sales easier. But how do you go about this? One of the best ways is to test content from day one, organically testing various content assets wrapped in compelling hooks, to determine what resonates most with your target audience.

Establish a baseline for typical social posts and then identify what drives exceptional engagement through experimentation. Posting consistently, ideally five to seven times a week, allows for the observation of trends and preferences among your audience.

These insights can then inform your paid media strategy, ensuring that every dollar spent contributes directly to tangible outcomes (e.g. your take home pay) instead of being wasted on ineffective approaches.

Like the transition from founder-led sales, the transition to real marketing can be a tough one. Marketing can seem like a black hole to founders, hard to understand, track and measure. But when you stay dialed into these solid fundamentals, both marketing and sales will be poised and ready to maximize revenue.