Your startup marketing strategy and COVID-19

In this world overwhelmed with uncertainty, if you are reassessing your marketing priorities, you aren’t alone. According to a CMO Survey, “Many companies observe lower likelihood to buy (67.2%) and [an] unwillingness [on customer’s behalf] to pay full price (43.3%).”

Should you pay for that expensive LinkedIn campaign when customers are skeptical of spending money? Should you even try to sell your product when customers might not be willing to pay the full price? Wouldn’t it be better to use these resources for product development or an infrastructure upgrade?

As we wait out the pandemic and watch for things to settle, this is the perfect time to refine (or, in some cases, define) your marketing strategy. Where should you begin? Here are three areas where you should start building your marketing foundation for future growth.

Dig deeper into your customer base

Your current customer base is not only an elixir of life for your business but also a source of invaluable information about the product and company.

Your happiest customers help you answer the most basic questions: What value does your product deliver, why are you better than your competition and what are the common traits of these customers? Using these data points, you can define your positioning, identify your target persona and build your key strengths.

Similarly, your unhappiest customers help you learn who you shouldn’t target as your prospect, why the churn rate is higher than expected and where the gaps are in the customer onboarding program. Using these data points, you can further refine your positioning, target persona and strengths.

Segmenting your customer base can help you identify new opportunities too, including referral programs, potential product development opportunities and case studies.

If you are in the early stages, you may not have a huge customer base to start with. If that’s the case, survey your customers, understand their pulse and build your positioning, target persona and key strengths.

Optimize your marketing channels

Digital channels make it easy to reach out to your audience. However, there is a problem of plenty. You can collect email addresses on your website. You can create newsletters. You have social media handles and groups. Where should you spend your time? Where should you build the community?

Contrary to popular opinion, you shouldn’t be present everywhere. There is nothing worse than an idle channel. Claim your brand name across all digital channels, but don’t use them all.

Start with two or three channels. Compute the acquisition cost or effectiveness based on the most common factors across all channels, such as cost, time taken for a response and the resources needed to manage them. Run pilot campaigns, and collect data and metrics. Optimize and scale up the most profitable ones.

Once you have enough data, set benchmarks. Conduct an annual audit to assess channel effectiveness. Some channels are bound to plummet at some point, so you should pause those and use the same methodology to scale up others or try new ones.

Build an audience

As a startup, you are offering new solutions, which compels your customers to rethink their current state and make changes. This compulsion is bound to create ripples, cause discomfort and produce resistance — even before customers can start the journey to make those changes.

Your audience-building tactics should address this resistance beforehand. Don’t confuse these tactics with the aspirations advertisements intend to build. These are actual changes in your customers’ habits, actions, processes and operations, so they need more convincing.

Find ways to reach out to your customers on the channels they prefer. If they like to read, create articles for your blogs and get published in the magazines they subscribe to. If they enjoy watching videos, create an educational YouTube channel and invite them to a Zoom webinar.

In these articles and webinars, don’t sell your solution. Instead, exhibit your understanding of their problem and demonstrate your expertise on the solution. This will also be an opportunity to deepen your understanding of the problem and tailor your solution accordingly.

Target end-users as well as decision makers. Those who don’t make the final decision are more open to learning about new solutions. The objective here is to build trust and establish familiarity. Later, when these audiences get on the path to purchasing, you can use this trust and familiarity as a door opener.

Focus on things that don’t scale

As the external factors of a pandemic force you to slow down, this is the perfect opportunity to focus on things that don’t scale. A deep understanding of your customer base is essential to building a strong offering, optimizing marketing channels keeps costs low, and building an audience is a failproof strategy for establishing a brand.