Most often I work with large corporate clients, but I also enjoy using my marketing skills with small and mid-size businesses. Currently, I have the pleasure of working with a professional services startup led by two amazing cofounders who came out of the corporate sector.

Over the past four months, I have been advising this startup on marketing strategy principles and getting a firsthand look as they prepare for the beta launch. It’s both exciting and exhausting for the cofounders as they think through every element of their business. I have been amazed at their endurance, their patience in learning skills they don’t already have, and their strength as they work through each detail. I’ve heard their high moments such as the thrill of getting their logo and color palette finalized and their low moments when creative had to be done over.

The Three Marketing Strategy Principles

I am always excited to meet with them because I know that marketing strategy principles are having a positive impact on the development of their business. I could go on and on, but I am, instead, going to share the guiding principles I use with them on marketing strategy:

  1. Build a plan. Many people want to run away from that dreaded four letter word, but plans work! Plans work because they provide common goals, they divide tasks, and they establish deliverable dates. Even for the smallest of businesses, the plan will get everyone working towards the same goal. Start with a plan, use it, and be sure to modify it as needed.
  2. Define the audience. Many businesses are understandably reluctant to “leave any buyer out” and that makes sense when you are selling a commodity everyone needs. But most small and mid-size businesses have a specific solution often based on the needs of their typical user. If you have trouble establishing who is part of the audience and who is not, look at existing users and build the profile from there. If you don’t define your audience, advertising and marketing won’t reach the optimal buyer and that will impact sales and product enhancements down the road.
  3. Just like with marketing, there is no knack for growing a business. Define, develop, measure, refine; repeat.

The startup I’m working with uses these guiding principles every day. They do it, they do it well, and they do it over when they have to. It’s a lot like the creative process that we use in marketing every day. At the startup, they talk to each other; they talk to people who have specific expertise; they talk to people who are in their target audience. And when things don’t go as planned, they are flexible enough to adapt. They don’t lose site of the goal, but they find a different way to get there. I see many similarities between what the startup is doing and developing effective marketing strategies.