Startup Versus Small Business Marketing – What’s The Difference?

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A startup moves completely differently to a small business. Your target audience can change from one week to the next. Even your product idea can pivot, and you’ll have to be ready when that happens. There can be changes made to a small business. So then, how do startup and small business marketing differ?

For example, take the founders of Slack, that popular business messaging chat service. They started with a sem-decent video game called Glitch. There are many other companies that have also successfully pivoted. But, the point is that if their marketing team put in all the time and effort into their end goal, they would have ended up with no money and no product.

Small Businesses Have It Easier

Small businesses, on the other hand, have quite a standard format for marketing. Your idea probably isn’t that new or innovative, your target audience is well defined and documented. Also, along the way your product isn’t likely to change that much. This makes marketing a small business much easier than a startup. There is still content out there of when and how to market a startup, but startups are a more dynamic and adaptability is key.

This means that, in general, you’re able to start your marketing campaigns a lot sooner for a small business compared to a startup. A startup requires your MVP to be sound and thoroughly tested. We could often have about 10-20 blog posts ready for a small business launch. whereas, with a startup, you might burn yourself starting marketing too soon. There are many more marketing dos and don’ts for startups, but the most important part is knowing when it’s a small business and when it’s a startup. For more information or if you’d like to request some of our professional startup/small business services, send us an email and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

When it comes to marketing in startups, it often feels like a bit of a crapshoot. When it comes down to it, there’s no startup with no marketing. We’ve often found ourselves setting up a brand’s identity and social media profiles as soon as the startup idea pops into our heads. The thing is, no matter good your product or service is, you can’t rely on that alone. Marketing is key. However, if your product or service is terrible, even the best marketing in the world won’t be able to hide that stench of a poor product. So then, “when to start marketing a startup?” becomes a key question, so let’s take a look into timing below.

On Your Marks

Start marketing too soon, and you run the risk of product or target audience changes. Too late, and you run the risk of struggling to gain traction and gain more funding. We’re referring to actual marketing campaigns here, not just simple social media profiles, blog posts or a landing page. We’ll also focus on when it’s too early and the risks involved when marketing too early. Take note, starting to market your product too soon can lead to:

  • Burning through capital and time too quickly
  • Doing harm to your business that you won’t be able to fix

Marketing should be cheap in the beginning to help increase your marketing leverage. However, some money can still be spent on marketing campaigns or user interviews. What is worse is the time that goes into strategies like this, and doing these too soon might lead not being able to get that time back. Speaking of things not coming back, ruining your reputation with a bad product or poor marketing can result in your startup quickly running driving off the success cliff.

Startups Versus Small Businesses

Something else to take note of is knowing if you are building a startup or a small business. The marketing goals and ways of achieving those goals differ quite a bit. This is especially true when looking at their marketing. Starting marketing too soon for a small business is fine, however, it can lead to disastrous results (as mentioned above) when it comes to startups.

MVP Is Key

A finished MVP, or your minimum viable product, is a good indication when to start marketing your product. You’ll have all the important features placed into your product, ready to test with your target audience (as well as friends and family). This is because you want your product out there, getting used by people who you’re aiming to use to product, to use the product. These are real users and will, therefore, determine if your product is good or not. 

Be careful though, your MVP has to be solid. A poor customer experience such as bugs or crashes (if it’s an app) can lead to a negative spotlight being shed onto your startup, killing it before it even gets off the ground.

Signs of starting too soon

Poor user retention

This refers to how easy your users stick around. In the example of an app, do they install it and uninstall it a few minutes later? Or do they keep it and use it often daily? You might be targeting the right people, but your product might need a change. This is where pivoting becomes important, and you’ll have to do it fast or you’ll run the risk of everyone losing interest and forcing your company to go under.

Getting stuck during the buying stage

I love Google Analytics. At first, it might just seem like you’re trying to hack into the Matrix, but it’s actually become extremely user-intuitive over the years, and can provide you with all the important information you’re looking for. For example, you’ll be able to see at the exact stage where people exit your website when trying to buy something. The easier this process is, the fewer people will become frustrated and drop off when trying to purchase a product or service.

Tons of leads but no sales

Leads, or potential sales, may indicate your marketing is doing well, but no actual sales is not a good thing. It might be your marketing (different to what your business is actually providing) or you might just need a change in your product (pivot). 

So, when is the right time?

As mentioned, once you have a solid MVP, one that provides a smooth experience, then it’s probably a good time to start. By now you’ve tested the product through and through, and you’ve learnt as much as you can about the product and market. At this stage, where people are willing to pay real money for your product, you’re ready to start marketing. If you’re still in the dark, drop us an email to assist with your startup or small business.

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