Sales & Marketing

The marketing function: Key to scaling startups

6 min read

22 August 2016

Startups face a number of growing pains while finding their footing – from marketing, to working with investors, to the other various things they may overlook when first setting up their businesses. And it’s that marketing function that’s key for achieving scale.

What is clear, is that setting up – and particularly scaling up – a business is challenging with as many as 80 per cent failing within the first 18 months. If done right however, starting a business has the potential to be very rewarding.

Sitting on a panel during London Tech Week, my attention was drawn to the fact that – when pulled in many different directions – there is a challenge associated with knowing what the focus really needs to be in order to scale a business successfully. For me, once the legalities and planning phases are set in stone, it’s about giving your brand a voice and making it known – and resonate – in the marketplace.

It’s never too early to start

Understandably, when starting out, many businesses get caught up in the practicalities, telling people about the business is often an afterthought or in many cases, not considered as important.

However, in a crowded marketplace making noise and positioning your brand as a first choice for customers is what’s going to make your business survive, grow and succeed long term.

Identify your company’s purpose and determine how you’re linking it to your product. Honing in on these issues will help you build your company’s perspective. When this is defined and there is a clear vision, shouting about your brand at the earliest possible time is key, whether that’s through advertising, PR or marketing.

For many businesses today, the website is the first place to do this – securing a web address and adding vital information including who you are, what you do and where you can be found. After all, Google is often the first place customers go when they want a product or service.

Read more on digital marketing:

Digital presence is the core of any marketing strategy

It is a place to highlight your brand and showcase that your customers come first. Typically, the website is the core digital asset. If done right, it can scale easily as your business grows, and provide a platform to showcase success, tell stories, and take visitors on a sales journey to relevant product, pricing and contact information.

It’s also important to ensure that you continue to build on your brand reputation, and that you’re constantly improving and evolving your digital presence to meet evolving needs of customers. Easy to use platforms make this possible as they open the doors to publishing by anyone in the business – not just the technical developer. This helps keep stories alive, and ensures that returning visitors are always finding out something new about your brand, feel engaged, and feel excited to know more and make a purchase.

However, it’s also important to consider how the website sits within the wider buying journey, and customer engagement programme. Social media and events are just a couple of examples of where else a customer may find you. Showing a truly integrated, joined-up approach is essential to ensure your brand’s vision is communicated to the right audience, in the right way, and at the right time.

One strategy, one team

It’s no secret that when every business starts up, there is a plan to grow so big that it takes over the world. With this ambition however, comes challenges. As businesses scale, it can be easy for its vision and message to become disparate. A business can go from one person running everything including the marketing function, to employing a CMO to focus purely on external brand voice very quickly. Likewise, when crossing borders, it’s easy to lose sight of what your brand is.

Likewise, when fortunate enough to enter new markets and reach different geographies, thinking about what that means for your digital presence and how you need to adapt in order to appeal to these new customers will be essential. For example, if you enter the US, a user will expect to see pricing in dollars and read customer stories from success found within their market.

One strategy, one team and one killer campaign that resonates regardless of geography is therefore key. As the business grows from one person in the front room to 100 people sat across ten different offices globally, this will help keep a consistent external voice.

Keep it simple. Marketing doesn’t have to be complicated or scary – just well thought out and consistent. Define who you are as a business, map the channels you want to use to communicate that vision, identify where your target audience is and you’ll have a strategy that helps build your brand from the startup to scale-up.

Mary Ellen Dugan is CMO at WP Engine

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