The ‘perfect’ ingredients for the success of a startup and SMEs would be a great idea, robust strategy and a strong team with the ability to execute the strategy and sustain the success. None of the ‘ingredients’ are complete without the other: building a startup or a small business is already extremely tough, hence a robust marketing strategy and execution are a must. Customers today are inundated with choices and with the phenomenal reach and interactivity of digital touch points, building a complete brand experience is becoming more important than before.
Limited resources, unfavorable timing, low visibility, bandwidth and other issues could seriously hamper the proper execution of the marketing strategy. To deliver a punch and lasting impact and gain sustainable ROI, marketing execution must be done right the first time.
Gaining a deep understanding of customers is critical to the success of any brand. It has been for years and still remains a key source of competitive advantage for companies. Getting to relevant customer insights involves two parallel processes.
First, getting ‘hard data’ from different sources and in today’s world there are many touch points from where data can be had. Some of the common data sources include shopper data, social media listening on your own brand pages, quantitative surveys and tracks that are undertaken from time to time. Good companies organize this data well and enable anyone in the organization to mine the data easily.
The second parallel process is ‘soft data’, which one should get by speaking to customers using traditional techniques like focus groups, depth interviews and observing consumers to understand the customer journey and the ‘reason why’ for their actions. Usually, both forms of data throw up a lot of potential insights and it is important to funnel down to the most powerful insight for the business.
“A good way to zero in on what matters most is to use the 3R Model – the insights should be Real, it should Resonate and it should be Relevant to most of your consumers.”
A good way to zero in on what matters most is to use the 3R model- the insight should be Real, it should Resonate and it should be Relevant to most of your consumers. The 3Rs can be validated using qualitative interaction modules and even checked using quantitative techniques.
Most companies today have a large amount of ‘hard data’ but are not investing enough in getting to know their customers and really understanding the ‘why’ for their actions. It is the combination of both ‘hard data’ and ‘soft data’ that results in competitive advantage that is very difficult to replicate. Good powerful insights drive not only marketing but are also core to building capability that is important to build a culture of customer centricity.e
Brands that are positioned well occupy a space in the minds of customers. It is important that start-up brands develop a position that clearly defines the functional benefit of their product or service (the job that customers want done), the emotional benefit (the feeling they derive from the service) and a higher order purpose (the reason why the planet needs the brand), which often differentiates the start-up from a crowd of players.
Brand positioning is a complex task that can be sometimes left to the intuitive brainpower of entrepreneurs but in most cases needs to be worked upon using techniques and refined over time. A good positioning usually involves defining the most important product or service attribute and linking it to functional and emotional benefits with a purpose.
“A useful way to look at functional & emotional benefits is by closely examining your target group, their day journey and identifying usage occasions where your brand or service fits in”
A useful way to look at functional & emotional benefits is by closely examining your target group, their day journey and identifying usage occasions where your brand or service fits in. Once that is done, in a competitive market, it is important to work towards benchmarking and getting to ‘parity’ where competition is strong and establish ‘points of difference’ where you would like your product or service to excel. It must be kept in mind that just getting to parity with competition is not enough – ‘Points of difference’ are important and also should be done on benefits that relevant category drivers that influence the final purchase in the category.
In the rush of getting early numbers, the question of defining the positioning is either left to the intuition of customers (which is sometimes okay for a first couple of years) or kept indefinitely for later, which is a mistake because it leads to confusion among customers and stake-holders on what the brand really stands for.
Execution of innumerable ‘moving parts’ is no mean task and taking them to the market as a seamless whole is known to give sleepless nights to those at the helm.
“One of the most important imperatives in execution is achieving common ground in thinking between the strategy team and the execution team. “
One of the most important imperatives in execution is achieving a common ground in thinking between the strategy team and the execution team. The strategy team would have great ideas, in fact in most cases more ideas than can be put into practice and the marketing execution team would have the best intentions and robust strategies to put the ideas to action. However, without a common understanding of the possible complications and obstacles, execution would be subpar leading to some serious consequences for the brand. It is therefore important, especially in start-ups, which the strategy team and execution teams are joined at the hip or are one team and if they are not one team they must actually pen down a common ground with agreed metrics.
The second important execution imperative is to identify the stage in the customer journey where investment is required to acquire customers. For many years, companies got their first customers by investing first in building awareness to get customers to try their brand and then invest more to build loyalty.
“With – new media customers are now by-passing the awareness phase and now go through an extended evaluation phase on their own by searching what they need (not searching brands), reviewing many brands then trying the one that they find to be the best fit at the purchase occasion.”
With ‘new media’ customers are now by-passing the awareness phase and now go through an extended evaluation phase on their own by searching what they need (not searching brands), reviewing many brands and then trying the one that they find to be the best fit at the purchase occasion.
Marketing investments that help customers navigate the evaluation process and then help advocate are important to generate a positive word of mouth, which is the most important driver for success. For start-ups and SMEs, understanding this new customer buying cycle and investing behind getting their brand evaluation right is critical to get customers. In the initial years, this is also the more cost efficient way of building a customer base rather than spending more on generating just awareness.
As a startup / small business, it would be necessary to make a critical analysis of the processes / stages within your existing marketing execution practice. This will help identify potential risks, obstacles and even unexplored opportunities. Experts in this realm can help view the process holistically and ask the right questions to ensure that the brand experience is uniform across multiple channels and if there are inconsistencies find out why they exist and what needs to be done to remove them. In addition, the leading team and the marketing teams must have visibility and knowledge of the entire process of execution in order to have control and confidence in the success. Accountability with names of each stage of the process would ensure that each person does whatever is required of them.
What matters at the end is reaching the target customer groups – and robust marketing strategy execution will help you reach them faster and ‘louder’. When the insight is powerful, the brand positioned is well and the market execution is right, your brand will compel your target customers to take action – will excite them to buy, recommend and buy again. Investing time, effort and money to get the right team for marketing strategy and execution makes for great business sense.
We are NorthSide. A strategy and execution company that partners with young businesses in their start-up and scale-up journey to help build robust brands, develop differentiated products and transform business models.