Not Taking Marketing Seriously Taught Me a Bitter Lesson in my Entrepreneur Journey
If there was one thing I could tell my early entrepreneur self, it is most definitely “to have a marketing plan.”
I learned the hard way that not having a marketing and plan and not having a business plan that does not prioritize marketing is a futile attempt at entrepreneurship, delivering no possible outcome.
So here is how it all started!
At the time I started my first venture, I had a decent knowledge of iOS development and a little bit of UI/UX design.
During that time, businesses were booming, and there were plenty of new small businesses starting up. With the digital surge, I figured that there was potential for our product in the market.
So I did what every early entrepreneur would have done. Come up with a great business plan (at least what looked like something great at the time), partnered up with a few colleagues as partners that shared common interests, and established a business presence.
After all this, I used all my skills to make a classy website to get a great first impression.
With every step along the way ticked off from the list, we expected clients to be at our doorstep the next day.
But the clients never came.
So, we waited for a week. The week later became a few weeks.
The clients never came.
So, where did we go wrong?
We thought we had a great business proposition on our hands and that we can solve one of the major problems that small businesses face when digitizing their operations.
But, it did not seem to go our way, and that was the end of the first attempt at entrepreneurship.
So, we went back to the drawing board to see what went wrong. After a few Google searches, we figured that we were not alone.
Although we had a marketing plan listed on our business plan, I did not put too much effort into the matter and focused on the other details.
It was my biggest mistake!
The next day was the first day of attempt #2. This time, marketing was not an appendix but the whole thing.
Why is marketing that important?
At the beginning of a new venture, brand awareness is non-existent or at a bare minimum level. Nobody knows about the capabilities unless you tell them.
We needed to inform our target market about the great product we had and why they need to get on board with us — something we failed at first.
But now, we made sure to tick this, and we came up with and included a “Marketing First” approach to get started.
Here are three strategies we incorporated into our marketing plan to get our business off the ground.
1 — Established an identity for the company
One of the things that we vaguely focused on was branding and limited the branding idea just to the logos and colors.
What we did right in the second was to go beyond the logo and colors but to look at branding and bring out our core values and company goals in the process.
That helped us get through to the target segment effortlessly.
2 — Customer first
One of the biggest mistakes we committed in our early attempt was not understanding our target market and what they wanted.
We were all over the park targeting a massive audience, whereas an effective, well-thought strategy would have guaranteed our word to reach our prospective leads.
We then narrowed our promotions and targeting to our niche.
We targeted small to medium business owners that did not already have a mobile application or a decent website in and around Europe.
There was one other thing we did. We reached out to our prospects to see what they lack. This way, we identified that most of these businesses also wanted assistance in getting their social media presence established.
So we coupled our offering to include the aspect of social media so that it suits our target market better. While we were passionate about design and app development, there were other needs in the market.
Thus, we made amends to our plan to bring in expertise, and this way fulfilled this need.
Understanding what our target market wants was a good starting point for us to see what options to investigate and what to drop off.
This way, we generated a lot of value for our target audience, later leading to sales.
3 — Entry strategy
Except for a few exceptions, there are already established players across every market and industry.
To compete in a saturated market, a startup needs to find the gaps in the market that are not fulfilled by the existing establishments.
For my startup idea, that was what we did when we appealed to the SMEs. Instead of going all out like the first option, we did our market research to find out what were the gaps in the current system and how we can work to fulfill them.
These businesses did not have too much to spend, and that did not fit into the established firms whose price points started way above the budgets of these companies.
So we attacked this opportunity to onboard all these clients and provided them with an economical yet quality solution.
The solution later snowballed into something bigger, thanks to recommendations from our first clients based on the exceptional service we offered.
What we understood is that despite established saturated markets, there is always space for a new entrant if you do your market research and find out what is lacking or missed by the big players.
Most entrepreneurs go head first with the established companies, and it often leads to burnout.
Rather than that, it is good to attack the gaps that go unfulfilled and later make your way to fight the big players.
But, do NOT break the bank with Marketing!
While we needed to get a great marketing strategy out, it was equally important to run marketing campaigns within a budget since we were starting up.
As opposed to the norm, marketing in the present age does not cost an arm and a leg.
What we needed was a cost-effective marketing strategy that will help the brand and reach out to a potential target market.
Marketing has changed to a completely different dynamic from what it was ten years ago. There used to be a time when you could open up a brick and mortar store and dedicate hours of hard work and bring in your management skills to succeed.
But things have changed drastically, and your hard work and sweat will just not cut the deal.
Today, digital marketing plays a pivotal role in getting the word across and is a must-have skill for any entrepreneur.
We needed to get our business off the ground and fast. So we did some growth hacking with digital marketing.
I am sharing the five things that we did right for us to go from nothing to 50+.
1 — Having a Great Content Marketing Plan
The present-day customer is different. They are on the lookout for authenticity and like to engage with a brand.
In this digital age, quality content has helped startups generate value and get that competitive edge.
After establishing our online presence, what we did was to create a content plan.
Everyone loves to binge content, be it video, graphic, infographic, or even just images.
So our content plan included everything related to our business, but we did not go all over the place with sales ads.
Instead, we covered topics that our target market would love — social media marketing tips, latest developments on Instagram for business, and Android and iOS development.
This way, we built an audience around our social media platforms. Because our product was a B2B related option, our target was LinkedIn and Facebook.
In the end, our content plan gave us a place in the industry.
2 — Email Marketing
Email marketing is not dead!
There is still potential for emails to get noticed and takes credit to be a valuable marketing option, according to Mckinsey and Company.
Email campaigns drafted correctly are valuable tools for lead generation.
In the B2B application, emails got us through to several clients in our field of business and helped us in lead generation.
At most times, the emails did not work. If we sent a hundred, at most, it was only 9–12 callbacks.
But as a business just starting up, we valued what we got, and the intention was to convert these leads into prospective clients.
However, we did not stop our email campaigns just because of that. What we did was we took feedback from the clients who replied to us back, got their insight as to what propelled them for a call, and re-worked the magic.
3 — Facebook/ LinkedIn Advertising
It was inevitable that we have our presence on Facebook with its widespread reach. Alongside Facebook, we had to invest time in LinkedIn with our business application.
The campaigns brought results, and with the minimum daily spend, we were able to get the conversions that we needed to get started.
What was great with these advertising platforms was it enabled us the opportunity to target who we wanted, making our lives easier.
4 — Google AdSense
Google AdSense is also another avenue we invested time on.
With Google being the go-to place for all needs, our adverts on search as well as on other targeted websites brought in leads.
We targeted search and display adverts primarily, and out of the two, the search ads generated the best results.
5 — SEO
If you are a website owner, you are continuously working towards getting your site ranked on the first page of a Google search result. On average, nobody goes beyond the first few results on a search page.
That is where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) came into play. We invested time in our firm to work on SEO to make our page rank on top for searches about business website set up, app development, social media help for businesses, etc.
The SEO effort was a continuous process, and after several tries and use cases, we were able to make the first page of a search for several keywords.
SEO is always a work in progress. We worked on different keywords, experiment with different use-cases to see what fits best.
Getting ranked on the first page of the search will accelerate the sales abruptly.
There is nothing wrong with failing!
From the first failed venture that had no direction, no marketing plan, or objective, today, “the idea” finally came to the life in a short span of less than a year.
Last year, it was all a blur, with the first attempt of the business model going south. But since then, with proper guidance and a marketing plan, I was able to get this off the ground.
If not for the first hiccup, I would have never understood the importance of marketing as a part of the entrepreneur journey.
Establishing a brand identity, dedicating the needs of the customer as a priority, and having a clear cut entry strategy was vital for the success of my business.
Just like that, the digital marketing arena equipped me with all the tools that I need to go from zero to success.
Thanks for reading.