It was scary approaching June 30 because it represented six months since we launched our business Adboss, a media buying website.
There was that moment of realisation that half the year was gone and we were forced to reflect on the goals we set way back in January.
One of the key challenges for our business has been its marketing. Here are the marketing lessons 2011 has taught me so far on how to successfully launch a start-up.
Lesson one: Get busy
The biggest lesson has been that if you are not making noise you are invisible.
Being a web-based business we track site visits as a key metric and it’s amazing how steeply traffic spikes when we are active.
It doesn’t matter what the activity is – PR, direct mail, whatever – when we’re “out there” visits spike and as soon as we stop traffic drops.
We now realise – hindsight makes everything obvious – that marketing is like shark’s teeth and just as a shark’s tooth starts to wear out there is a new one immediately behind it, ready to replace it.
If the replacement tooth wasn’t there the shark would go hungry and businesses are the same – unless you’re constantly marketing to potential customers things go quiet, too quiet.
Lesson two: Experiment
The other big lesson is to try lots of different things. We have tried many approaches – some have worked, some haven’t.
The scary thing – but also the exciting thing – is that we haven’t been that good at predicting winners.
We have been super excited about certain initiatives only to see them be moderately successful and we have been lukewarm about other activities only to see them wildly exceed our expectations.
The lesson is to be constantly thinking about clever, affordable ways of reaching your market – ads, PR, search, social media, people in gorilla suits, whatever – and give them a go.
As a start-up you need to make flexibility a virtue.
You may not have the marketing budget of a large company and what you equally don’t have are the seven layers of management those firms must navigate to get something approved, so use that flexibility to experiment.
Try to keep the financial commitment of any experiment modest and expect lots of things to fail, so don’t tie up too much time or money in one thing.
Lesson three: Next
Before you conduct a marketing experiment do three things — first set a budget, second set a goal and third be prepared to cut and run.
In other words balance trying lots of things with keeping a sharp eye on results.
If an idea works invest more in it because you may have uncovered a winning idea.
If the idea does worse than you expected, kill it quickly and without mercy.
Persisting with an idea that does not work eats up valuable time and resources – the two things start-ups don’t have.
The moment you kill off the dud idea try something else and don’t get disheartened.
Experiment again and quickly because, as I’ve already mentioned, when you’re not out there you’re invisible.