I recently wrote about scaling companies, and the importance of having a solid marketing plan in place to support that growth. But, what I didn’t talk about was when should you turn on that marketing in the first place? The answer is pretty intuitive—not until you are ready! But, what does that specifically mean? Read on.
PRODUCT NEEDS TO BE READY
You don’t have anything to sell until you have a product complete . . . duh! So, don’t turn on the marketing investment until you feel you have a product that you would be proud of. A product you are confident won’t break, that has been fully through a quality control process. A product that will make a good first impression, as you only get one chance to do that. A minimum viable product is fine, it doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles in it. But, the key word there being: viable. It must be good enough to be of a need to a customer, solving the core of some major pain point in the market.
CUSTOMER SERVICE NEEDS TO BE READY
Once you are actively selling to customers, they may have customer support questions or needs. Make sure you have a process in place to handle those inbound phone calls and a way to quickly resolve any bugs that are being reported by users. And, even if something slips through your QA process, make sure your customers know you are apologetic and on top of the issue, reporting back to them once it is fixed, and hopefully to their satisfaction. The way you handle breaks, is as important as how you handle the sale in the first place.
CUSTOMER RETENTION & INFLUENCER MARKETING NEEDS TO BE READY
Yes, you need to be thinking about retaining new customers, as soon as you get them in the first place. Did you have a way for them to follow you in social media? Did you have a way to collect their email address, and opt them into your monthly newsletter (and, is the newsletter template and content calendar ready to go). Do you have a way for them to become brand ambassadors, and share their happy experience with their friends or colleagues. You might as well leverage their excitement while it is still fresh in their mind.
GET YOUR MARKETING ECONOMICS TESTED BEFORE GUNS BLAZING
Don’t spend $10,000 on marketing in one month, until you have tested $1,000 in ten places first. Leverage growth hacking techniques and set clear objectives around calculating your marketing ROI. Once you have a sense to which marketing techniques are working best, then you double down on those efforts with the vast majority of your spend. But, the point here: test, test and test again, until you get your cost of acquisition metrics at a low enough level to drive a healthy profit from the lifetime value of your revenues per customer.
GET AHEAD OF YOUR RECRUITING AND BACK OFFICE NEEDS
Hopefully, your initial marketing efforts will be a success, at which point you are going to want to pour kerosene on the fire, in the form of additional marketing efforts and investment. And, with a growing and bigger company, will come additional people and back office needs that will be needed to effectively manage and operate a business of that growing size. So, figure out what additional bodies, equipment or space you will need to be successful in the future, and start warming up potential candidates and resources. So, when you are finally ready to engage them, they are ready to go.
BE SENSITIVE TO THE CATCH 22
This whole post is talking about waiting to start your marketing efforts, until you are ready. At, the same time, the venture capitalists you are pitching for capital will most likely want your marketing efforts tested and successful, before they will consider investing. So, in one breath, I am saying “proceed slowly and cautiously”, and in the next breath, I am saying “go as fast as you can, if raising capital is important”, which is most likely the case for most of you. That is a tight rope you are going to have to walk very carefully—you need the marketing data to attract funds, but not at the expense of upsetting your early adopters.
Hopefully, you now have a better sense to what is required to help prepare your business for a “ready for prime time” initial marketing effort. It’s much more than simply an effort to acquire new customers. It is also an effort to retain them, leverage word of mouth, efficiently scale the business and attract investment, all at the same time. So, it is critical you get your first marketing efforts right!