Think Marketing Strategy Now for More Success Later

Most people have never heard of the Melvins, but nearly everyone knows of their influence. They are widely credited with starting the grunge genre but have never had a hit album or packed a stadium. Unfortunately, many start-ups face a similar fate, creating something with huge potential but ultimately failing to achieve awareness and commercial success. And while the Melvins’ cult status continues to fuel their career as a band, not many start-ups can survive by flying under the radar.

To achieve commercial success, a start up is dependent on awareness and must reach its target markets through effective advertising. But with a start-up’s limited resources, choosing how to advertise is tricky. Most start-ups have only enough cash to do the mandatory website and one or two other tactics, such as social media, pay-per-click or public relations. Picking the right tactics and knowing how to scale your advertising requires a marketing plan based on a sound strategy tied to your business goals. So let’s understand what it means to strategically pick your advertising tactics and look at two ways it will better prepare you for success in the future.

Be Strategic

There are libraries full of books on marketing strategy. Yet, people very easily fall into thinking only tactically. You can’t effectively plot a trip route without already knowing where you are, where you want to be, what you have to bring with you, how fast you need to travel and how much money you have to spend.

On a top level, being strategic about your advertising involves the same thought process. Who are your target markets? Where do they get their information, news and entertainment? What are their wants and needs? How does your company’s offering fit those wants and needs? How is your competition reaching your target markets and with what message? How much can you invest in your annual advertising? What sales revenues do you need from that advertising investment? As you find the answers, you can effectively plot your route to growing awareness and sales, especially one that is accountable and scalable, which are two huge benefits to advertising strategically.


By starting with a strategy, your plan will show you which marketing tactics to execute, what you should spend on them and what revenue you should expect from them. This is invaluable not only for keeping each advertising investment dollar accountable, but for knowing how to scale up effectively when your company begins to grow and/or funding comes knocking.

We say “accountable” because today’s fragmented media, advancing technology and decades of data allow us to better understand what to expect from our advertising investments. But, the human brain is still a mystery. While there are studies that show correlations between consumer sentiment and behavior, grey matter creates grey areas when it comes to explicitly tracking how someone converts from a prospect to a customer. Even though your Facebook page might only deliver a handful of direct sales that you can tag to your advertising ROI, you can still keep it accountable for delivering a large amount of viral impressions that prime your prospects to buy the next time they come in contact with your offering.

Knowing What Youd Do Next

Poor Melvins’ lead singer, Buzz Osborne, shot a video of himself attempting to buy a 20,000 square-foot Beverly Hills mansion. As the uppity realtor takes Buzz through the home, she occasionally pauses, raises an eyebrow and questions the frizzy-haired singer as to whether he can afford it. Buzz laughs maniacally and reassures her that everything he needs to purchase the palace is “right here in my briefcase.” The video concludes with Buzz trying to buy the home on “street cred” by opening the briefcase and pulling out newspaper clippings naming him as the godfather of grunge music.

There’s a continual flow of news stories talking about how a start-up sparked phenomenal growth through a social media channel or other marketing tactic. This kind of street cred will get investors’ attention. However, investors are much more interested in whether picking that tactic was strategic and not guesswork. Otherwise, they know your success might just end up as newspaper clippings in a briefcase.

For starters, no one wants a dart-thrower behind their investment dollars. Investors want to make sure that each step is planned out. Moreover, your advertising strategy is going to evolve. What starts as a launch strategy, turns into a growth strategy and so on. Investors know this. By plotting out your advertising spend along that strategy investors will have more confidence in your ability to scale it up.

In the end, picking how to spend your advertising dollars without a strategy has little benefit other than saving you some time. Time is a valuable commodity. But in rushing to pick advertising tactics, you’re stacking the deck against making it big. Even if picking a tactic out of a hat nets a homerun, it could have meant even more with a strategy pointing the way to even bigger and better things. And isn’t that what you want instead of a briefcase full of newspaper clippings?

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