As a new business idea takes shape, it's mission critical to craft your positioning early. Although there are dozens of startup priorities, positioning will prove foundational in several ways. A polished value proposition, refined differentiators, and a clear intended target market will create the foundation of your market identity.
Pitch your value proposition to as many people as you can. Doing this, you'll start to understand how your story resonates. If a broad group of people can easily convey back to you your business premise, then it’s ready for prime time. If it doesn’t hit the mark with a majority, slog through changes until people can easily express to you your own business idea.
There are dozens of tactical Marketing methods to drive awareness and generate leads. But most startups fall short of a well-thought-out marketing strategy that unfolds into actionable tactics.
Great Marketing Starts With Empathy:
A connected customer experience requires thinking through the end-to-end buying process. A useful exercise is to put yourself in the shoes of prospects. Then ask yourself these questions.
- What problems are they trying to solve that starts their search for a solution?
- How will prospects discover your business?
- What information do they need to make a decision about your business?
- Why would they do business with your brand?
- How easy is it to purchase?
- Can I try it before I commit time, money, and resources?
- What’s required to learn how to use your product?
- How easy is it to use?
- Will it fit their needs in a year or two?
- Is it adaptable as their needs change?
- How can they consume more from your brand?
This checklist of empathy questions is just the tip of the iceberg. A bit more legwork is necessary to develop a comprehensive customer experience framework. Whether your business serves the B2C or B2B market, the buying process almost always starts with a need.
For instance, I’m a frequent hiker who wears a Camelback (Water Backpack) for the convenience of not carrying water bottles. But when I bring the dogs, I do carry a water bottle for them. But it’s annoying to carry their water bottle on long hikes. I started to wonder if someone sells a Camelback like contraption for dogs. While I was on the trail, I got to Googling.
If you’re in the business of selling hiking and camping gear, how will I find your business? What information will you provide to ensure I have the information to make a buying decision?
In B2B environments, it usually starts with a company initiative, objectives, or pain points.
Here’s an exercise designed to help you develop a strategic marketing plan. There are six standard customer buying journey milestones. If your product has unique buyer and user personas, the exercise is more effective if you develop scenarios for each persona. You’ll likely find they need different marketing collateral to make their decision.
If you’re not familiar with developing persona descriptions check out Market Research, or Drinking Rocketfuel Before Takeoff for tips to develop personas.
Customer Buying Journey Milestones:
Discovery: The customer needs to fill a void or solve a pain point. What research will they do for a list of potential products or services to meet their needs? This is research they do before they ever contact your brand, meaning you’re not aware they’re in the buying process.
Learn: At this stage, they’ve narrowed down a list of potential vendors/products to review. They want to learn as much as they can before contacting the company directly.
Evaluate: They'll want to do an in-depth review of the product to learn if it scales, meets the need, and fits the budget.
Justify: At this point, buyers often need to justify to a family member, boss, or management why and how the product will help. They'll need to justify the cost relative to the benefit.
Buy: Everyone wants a pleasant buying experience. What can you do to make it easy for buyers to do business with your brand?
Adopt: Easy onboarding experience with clear instructions on how to use a product encourages adoption, repeat business, and advocacy.
As a startup, your goal is to help prospects move seamlessly from stage to stage. Put yourself in their shoes. Understand their buying process. Doing this, you’ll develop a marketing strategy and uncover a list marketing collateral needed to seal the deal at every step.
Here’s a completed Customer Buying Journey Framework. For background, my company Digitile worked through this exercise for the Buyer and User personas of its business, so it’s designed for B2B marketing.
Armed with this insight, you can easily develop a marketing plan for each stage of the buying process. There’s a point when business owners shift from putting things into operation to marketing the brand. The framework offers a clear set of priorities. As a new business, the Discovery and Learn stages are mission critical to nail to successfully drive awareness.