Startups find themselves pulled into many directions during their critical early stages. However, at your company's onset, you only possess the financial capital, energy and focus to address a short list of priorities. Below are the eight marketing priorities your startup must nail to dial-in product/market fit.
1. Identify Market Need
You must build a clear idea of the market you will be competing in. Doing this means identifying your potential pool of customers by discovering unmet needs, defining your competition and identifying market leaders.
In your company’s early stages, discovering market need is your most critical priority.
2: Develop hypotheses about your ideal customer base.
Create a profile of your ideal customer by asking these core questions:
What pain is your customer burdened by without the advantages of your product or service?
Do you know the10X advantages of your product/service?
Which advantages do your customers value most?
What advantages can only be obtained by utilizing your product?
Have you quantified both the extent of your customer's pain and how your product/solution advantages address their needs?
Take these questions and fuse them together to build a persona of your ideal customer. Give them a name and an identity. Only by making them real and bringing them to life can you truly understand how serve them with your product or service.
3: Segment your possible customer pool & identify top prospects
There are many ways to segment the market, but optimal segmentation should correlate with two key points; how you’ve grouped your prospective buyers (your ideal customers), and how you’ve positioned your unique advantages.
Your goal is to create a segmented group comprised of customers who will intrinsically value your solution. Instead of trying to target everyone in the segment all at once, find the top prospects to focus on. These are the customers that have a high probability of buying your solution based on their pain, your product advantages, how you specifically solve the pain and most importantly, timing – are these prospects motivated to address their pain right now.
4: Position your solution based on your unique advantages
Put yourself in the perspective of the customer and proactively state the position your solution will own in their mind. How does this solution differ versus other alternatives and solutions? Develop a positioning statement that includes who your ideal customer is, what your unique 10X advantages are and how your product differentiates itself from the competition in the category/offering you have chosen.
5: Become the expert of your ideal customer’s pain
Create customer relevant problem statements based on customer pain and the disadvantages of other competitive approaches. Relate the problem statement to its impact on the customer and then solve the problem with your advantages. Provide proof of your ability to solve their problem. You must become better than anyone else at describing your ideal customer’s pain.
6: Develop a storyline that speaks directly to your ideal customer
Your positioning statement and ideal customer problem statements form the basis of your storyline and establishes your point of view concerning the customer’s unmet needs. Each member of your company interacting with customers, investors and influencers must stick to this storyline and stay true to these key messages.
This storyline framework must include:
Key takeaway & vision (gap in the market)
Key messages (promise, benefits)
Use cases (product, solution)
Competitive differentiation (market and customer)
Proof points (evidence, importance)
Messaging must be unique – meaning your claims need to be differentiated from any messaging your ideal customers may encounter. Do not use marketing speak in your messaging. Instead, use real language that is relevant and meaningful to your customers.
7: Engage with your ideal customers
Develop hyper-focused campaigns targeted at your hot prospects. Make sure to build clear goals with metrics that help validate your advantages and dial-in the profile of your ideal customers. Each campaign highlights your story while delivering messaging and value props. Deploy and test that messaging through multiple channels (social, email, Webcasts, and other digital and traditional channels) to understand which messages resonate best with your ideal customers and which channels drive the most engagement. You have to do whatever is necessary at this stage to secure conversations with your prospective ideal customers.
Think of this priority as demand gen "light" that serves to engage your ideal customers.
8: Above all - partner with the product team and together track, measure and iterate constantly
The best way to track, measure and iterate is to build a product/market fit engine. These purpose-built engines anchor metrics and can pinpoint early indicators of your product/market fit. Your value advantages and messaging are the gas that powers the engine. Engines ask questions such as why do customers specifically love your product, how much do they love it and what holds them back from loving the product?
Tracking and scoring these with the product team and through a product/market fit engine will help you dial into a metric that enables you to gauge your product/market fit.
Your early stage company will most certainly find itself burdened by an onslaught of priorities. But the truth about priorities is you can only have one at a time. To survive these early stages, you must put all your energy into finding product/market fit as quickly as possible.
Stay true to these eight steps and you will have a good shot at progressing your company to the next stage of growth.