MaRS Library A simple marketing plan for startups
A marketing plan details how a company aims to reach specific marketing objectives. It links marketing activities with marketing and strategy objectives and is important in ensuring the right focus and direction for the company. While a marketing plan template is useful in helping a company develop its marketing plan, most such templates are not relevant for startups, especially those that have yet to receive a significant amount of external funding.
Startups need to keep their marketing plans simple.
One reason for this is that creating and executing a comprehensive marketing plan requires more time and organization than startups have available. Startups also depend on their ability to be agile when pursuing specific opportunities—this means that it makes little sense for them to invest their time in creating a full-blown marketing plan. As the company grows, adds customers, and builds its marketing and sales team, it should then develop a more comprehensive marketing plan.
A startup’s marketing plan should include a MAT.
As startups need to keep their marketing plans simple, Guy Kawasaki suggests, in The Art of the Start, that startups develop an MAT (Milestones, Assumptions, Tasks). At MaRS, we believe this approach makes more sense than the more comprehensive plans typically described in management literature.
The MAT provides enough structure to organize the necessary activities among the team and keep everyone focused on the same objectives. It also provides a framework for engaging the team in discussing key assumptions about the business, and reaching a consensus on the company’s overall view. Additional benefits of the MAT are that it is quick to create, action-oriented, and easy to change.
The purpose of developing the MAT is to:
- Understand the scope of your undertaking
- Test assumptions quickly
- Find and repair critical flaws in your thinking
Milestones mark a company’s significant progress along the road to success. Every startup should focus on the following milestones which apply to every type of business, as they are necessary for the company’s survival:
- Prove your concept
- Complete design specifications
- Finish a prototype
- Ship a beta version to customers
- Ship the final version to customers
Create a complete list of the main assumptions you are making about the business. Track the assumptions, and react quickly whenever an assumption proves false. Link assumptions to milestones—as you reach a milestone, you can test an assumption. Main assumptions include:
- Product or service performance metrics
- Market size
- Target customer
- Gross margin
- Sales call per salesperson
- Conversion rate of prospects to customers
- Length of sales cycle
- Return on investment for customer
Create a complete list of the major tasks required to design, manufacture, sell, ship and support your product or service. These tasks are necessary for building an organization, although they are less critical than milestones. The list will enable you to understand and appreciate what your startup needs to accomplish. Examples of tasks include:
- Identifying key opinion leaders with whom you need to build a relationship
- Developing your company pitch
- Recruiting prospects for product testing
- Planning a lead generation campaign
- Writing a whitepaper or conference presentation to support your thought leadership positioning
Kawasaki, G. (2004). The Art of the Start. London: Penguin Group.