For most start-ups or early-stage companies simply having a great business idea is not enough. Those that succeed typically have a growth marketing strategy every bit as brilliant as their product.
Marketing is all about competitive advantage. It is the process of identifying and effectively communicating a company or product’s unique attributes, so it is perceived as being superior to the competition. Of course, the key word here is ‘unique’.
At CFSG we speak to a lot of early-stage companies and over time we have observed a growing trend of marketing sameness. Rarely do we see a first cut marketing plan that brings something fresh to the table. For all their talk about innovation and creativity, many start-ups seem to sleep walk their way through the marketing motions.
The reality is that most marketing plans, regardless of budget, are clones of each other. They tend to resemble shopping lists rather than strategic plans and permeate a kind of ‘Field of Dreams’ mindset – build it and they will come. Founders misguidedly think that by simply ticking a few boxes everything will fall into place.
It begs the question, where is the competitive advantage if everyone is using the same data, the same tools and the same ideas as you?
Great Idea, But Can You Sell It?
Experienced investors often say that they back good ideas and good people in equal measure. We agree. But at CFSG, we strongly believe that great marketing (or at least the potential for great marketing) is just as critical. A start-up might have the greatest business concept in the world but if it can’t monetise it, so what.
Marketing expertise can obviously be purchased but early-stage companies often don’t have the budget and instead DIY it. As such they gravitate to what they know – Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. Why? Because not only is that where their audience hangs out but that is what every other company does as well. And that is the problem.
Don’t get me wrong these channels all have their place but if they are utilised blandly and generically then what good are they? You will spend a lot of time and money for little result. There are literally thousands of other businesses, including your direct competitors, doing the exact same thing.
So how do you cut through?
Part of the answer lies in uniqueness and not doing exactly the same thing as everyone else. This does not mean that you abandon Instagram or Facebook. But perhaps you need to revaluate how you approach them. If your marketing is barely distinguishable from your competition then alarm bells should be ringing.
If you can’t tell the difference how will your target audience?
Effective Marketing Is Brave Marketing
Today’s start-ups and early-stage companies have more control and insight into their marketing than ever before. But has this pre-occupation with analytics come at the expense of creativity?
Our view is that these channels (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, etc) are the baseline. They are the starting point. The minimum expectation. The brilliance does not lie in their selection but rather in how they are utilised. Anyone can run ads on a social media platform, but is that really enough to make your business stand out from the pack? Is it time to get a little brave and find your own unique approach?
And remember, uniqueness does not mean getting wild or whacky with your marketing. You can still find your uniqueness within the parameters of your brand.
Of course, when it comes to marketing nobody has the answer. All those marketing gurus might have a point of view but they don’t 100% know what will work. So, embrace the uncertainty. Do not be wed to any one idea. As a business you need to be nimble and brave enough with your marketing to try lots of ideas, evaluate them and invest in the ones that do work.
Ultimately, the goal is to build a marketing growth engine - a holistic, metric-driven and creative process for finding the fastest and most affordable path to explode your company’s sales growth. It should be a repeatable strategy where you can invest $X’s into marketing and confidently expect a return of $Y’s.
Effective marketing has never been a case of ‘set and forget,’ rather it is ‘trial and error.’ Companies should constantly evaluate every aspect of their strategy and not be set in stone.
If you would like to discuss how CFSG Ventures can help your business rapidly accelerate its growth, we invite you to contact us.