Building Your Marketing Toolkit
Ok, you are a founder of a startup that you believe in. You want other people to believe in it, too — by giving you their cold, hard cash. So, you need to start marketing. Your instinct might be to start shouting about your offering from the top of the closest internet mountain… Hold your horses, keener! There are some items you’ll need to nail down before you start communicating externally.
What is your marketing toolkit?
These are the bare necessities of a successful marketing launch. You’ll need to invest time in building yours – sorry, no you can’t borrow someone else’s.
You could decide to not invest in your toolkit now, but that would mean costly design changes in the future, a confused customer base, slower audience growth, lack of organic visibility and sharing… Do yourself a favour, set yourself up now rather than paying the price later.
What’s in your marketing toolkit?
Your brand/marketing committee
Your brand foundation
Your visual identity
Your customer research and market insights
Your marketing message – just the basics…
Your social media pages
Your bank of shareable content
Did that list overwhelm you, my friends? It wasn’t my intention. I even pared it down a couple times. Yes, it’s a lot to think about for a company that’s already giving 18 hours a day to their product development, investor-hunting or ass-kissing, employee-hiring, and budgeting. But, I’m being straight with you about what you’ll need because I believe you can do it. And, if you want your marketing to count – and yes, you do want it to count – you’ll check these items off the list one-by-one.
Don’t worry though, I’ve got your back and a tackle plan. Grab a coffee, take a breath and knock these down one at a time…
1. Establish a team of decision makers within the company that have final say over brand/marketing collateral
This could be one person, or two, or three, at most. Their opinions matter, no one else’s does. Well, it’s not that no one else’s voice matters, but, it’s best if this isn’t a democracy. The more voices get involved, the harder it is to come to a consensus and the more white-washed your messaging will become.
I know relinquishing control can be tough for some people but not everyone needs to be involved. Choose the people who are invested in the mission of the company and truly care about how it’s marketed. The CEO is a natural choice. They should be supported by other founders. But again, not all of them, unless they really, really care about this stuff. Remember, the fewer voices involved, the stronger the end result.
2. Start with your brand, everything else will follow.
What is a brand? (Check out: A detailed look at What’s in a Brand and 7 Things to remember when developing your brand). Your brand is essentially the feeling and images that come to mind when someone thinks of your company – what I like to call your ‘lasting impression’. People get a sense of your brand every time they come into contact with you: in conversations, online, through your product, in messaging. If you want these people to have a clear idea of who you are, what you offer and why you matter to them – you need to have a clearly defined brand in order to build your marketing message.
You will need to establish your brand foundation:
Your mission, your company values or brand pillars, your value proposition to your customers.
Establishing this foundation early on leads to:
A cohesive and compelling marketing message, a strong creative direction, more loyal customers, a vision as you evolve as a company.
Don’t rush through this process. You’ll benefit from it for as long as your company is up and running.
* If you don’t know where to start with this, fear not. Start from an honest place. Don’t try to mimic what you think is right – be true to your original mission. If you have no idea what you’re doing (and you aren’t alone on that one!) there are people who do this for a living – use them! But whatever you do, do not skip the brand work.
3. Get your visuals in order
Looks matter! Your visual identity matters! (Your visual identity is your logo, fonts/colours, business cards, and general guidelines that dictate your visual communication style). Spend money on your designs now rather than spending even more fixing them in the future.
Don’t let your friend do it, unless they’re a great designer. In the design world, experience counts a ton. Good designers and agencies know how to get you noticed and how to give your audience the information they need. They also understand that the devil is in the details. Formats and sizing and colour codes – these things matter.
You’ll also want a designer to put together your website. Easy-to-use templates and web builders like WordPress and Squarespace, are affordable tools that designers (or handy team members) can use to build up your online hub without engaging developers. Production of your website should begin while you move onto steps 3 & 4.
4. Speak to customers – don’t assume anything
I know it’s hard to get your head up and out of your office while you’re working your ass off but it’s essential that you do so before you start marketing. Talk to customers (if they exist) or potential customers. Talk to many of them. Do research, surveys, take part in face to face discussions. Ask them about their lives, about the problems you could solve for them, about the things that are missing in their day-to-day, about their passions. Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism. Embrace it.
Take in what you’ve learned from these people and react to it. What type of people were interested in your product/service? How could you make your offering better for them? Where do they meet and exchange online? What language resonated with them?
By listening and engaging, you are able to tailor your marketing to the people who’ll actually react to it positively. This stage sets you up for the next because it provides insights about your audience, the best ways to reach them and the language you should use when marketing to them.
5. Build your messaging (aka make your words count)
Your messaging counts. Your slogan matters. Your website content matters. Your elevator pitch really matters. Most important, however, is the consistency of your message.
You want to deliver a consistent message over and over and over again. How do you do this? You need to craft that message. Marketing messages are strategically shaped and moulded to showcase your brand while connecting you to people who care. Invest in crafting your message. Work with someone who knows what they’re doing.
If you can’t yet afford help from someone who knows what they’re doing, you might feel apprehensive about sharing your message. That’s the last thing I want you to feel. As I recently shared, done is better than perfect. And, If you don’t have content that will make you visible, no one will find you.
So, start by revisiting your brand work – that will help with language and direction. Come up with a slogan that speaks to the benefits of choosing your company over another. Write your company story. Write web content that’s honest and speaks to the problems you’re solving rather than the product you’re selling. This brand self-assessment takes five minutes to complete and can help you determine what needs work.
And, when you’re financially ready, hire a marketing consultant to audit what you have and tweak where necessary. A great copywriter, an SEO or content strategist are also wonderful assets for your team… when the time is right and cash flow allows for it.
*** Now, at this point, you have a brand foundation, a visual identity, you’ve done some customer research, you’ve built up your messaging. You have the basics to start marketing. But, I have one last task for you. This one is worth it.
6. Time to invest energy in your social footprint
You’re a start-up so your pockets don’t run deep. That means that you’ll want to connect with people in cost-effective ways. Investing energy in your social presence is key. Everything you share online lets your audience know what you’re about and also makes you more visible in search results.
You need a place to share online – you need social media pages. Create pages with your company name (don’t use your personal pages). These will act as your online community drawing people in with interesting content and encouraging them to visit your online hub, your website.
Once your pages are up, start sharing content that is valuable to your audience – these can be written by other people. In the meantime, establish a content calendar (what will you share and when?). Be aware of the topics and trends in your industry. Explore how you could bring your unique voice to the conversation. After some research, build up a bank of your own content that you believe will be compelling to your customer.
When the time is right, hire someone who’s into this stuff and can do it for you full time – because, as you’ll find, it’s a full time job and then some.
So, let’s revise, here’s what you need to do in order to build your toolkit:
Decide on your brand/marketing committee – once and for all. Take time outlining your brand foundation. Invest in the design of your visual identity. Build your website. Do your research with customers – document market insights and adapt your product and messaging to what will resonate with them. Outline your marketing messaging: slogan, web copy, a general guideline for your social voice. Create your social media pages. Start sharing content.
Use the power of your identity to build an authentic brand that compels and connects. I’ll show you how. Book a 3hr Brand Tune-Up today. I’m here to help.
Erin Willett is a brand coach and founder of The Tap In Team a plusMTL agency.
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