The Most Important Marketing Iceberg by Startup Stage

We’ve started doing workshops using key ideas from our book, The Titanic Effect: Successfully Navigating the Uncertainties that Sink Most Startups. One of the goals of these workshops is to help startups identify which icebergs can be the biggest challenge by startup stage. The primary tasks a startup undertakes changes by stage. So too, do the challenges they face.

Stages of Startup Development.jpg

So, let’s define each of these stages and where the focus of marketing needs to be:

Pre-Revenue is the stage before the startup is actually selling anything and is early in concept development. This is sometimes called the ideation phase. At this time, the most important task is to deeply understand customers, their needs and how the startup is going to address those needs. This is essentially the job of segmenting the market. A startup needs to figure out what different segments or pockets of customers exist. Then, it needs to pick one target for its initial focus. We covered how to segment a market in an earlier blogpost. Head over to the blogpost titled Target Marketing 101 For Startups to find how to do this.

MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and First Customers is when the startup has honed in on a product concept and has some product offering to share with customers. Now it to begin communicating what that product offering is. So, the key marketing challenge is to understand what category the product offering belongs to – its frame of reference. People have a hard time understanding what a product offering is, without a frame of reference. The key for a startup here is to make sure you launch in a frame of reference the market already knows. Our blogpost Why a Startup Needs to Launch in an Existing Market Category explains how and why. 

Launch and Early Growth suggests that a startup has a replicable product it has started selling. It should be moving from one to several paying customers. Now is the time to really hone in on what makes this product offering different and better. People won’t change their behavior and adopt a new product unless they get more value than they’ve already got. Our blogpost Positioning: What Makes you Different and Better? shares how to find a point of differentiation. 

Scalable Product and Business Model happens when the startup has become a growing venture in terms of products, customers, and employees.Now, the key challenge is getting pricing right. Price too high and not enough customers buy. Price too low and you give up profit. Our blogpost The Price is Right? walks you through the pricing process. 

Of course, the earlier you can sort through these looming challenges, the better off you’ll be. But, the process of finding Product/Market Fit takes time and is iterative. So, you might have to revisit these decisions several times.

If you know a group that might be interested in hearing these ideas firsthand, check out the Speaker’s page on our website - You can download our Speaker’s Kit, check out where else we are talking, and listen to any podcasts we’ve been on.