Marketing from Starting to Scaling

June 27, 2022

Key Learnings from Yuliya Salorenko’s Workshop

There are about a thousand things startup teams and founders need to juggle. Marketing is one of them.

Marketing efforts often get de-prioritized as they don’t provide “quick fixes” and immediate growth. However, nowadays, marketing is the driving engine that goes far beyond building a website, making pitch decks and posting on social media. That is why Red Brick invited Yuliya Salorenko, a growth marketer by day and public speaker by night, to hold a workshop on Marketing: From Starting to Scaling.

Currently, Yuliya is a Senior Growth Marketer at The F Company, and she is running a side business in public speaking, startup coaching, personal branding and beyond. Yuliya’s career kicked off in a startup scene, from co-running a startup accelerator to coaching early-stage teams and everything in between. Her combined understanding of the startup challenges, as well as modern marketing tactics, enable her to build this hands-on workshop, aiming to impactfully serve the community and entrepreneurs in their marketing endeavors and growth.

In this article, I will be summarizing key learnings discussed during the workshop on May 3rd, 2022.

1. Marketing in most early-stage startups gets often deprioritized

Startups are dealing with a huge time and financial pressure to succeed before reaching the so-called “death valley”. Yet, while on a quest to find the ideal product-market-fit and understand the market deeper, most founders and startup teams still spend their time and money on building new product features, hunting investors, and attending events before dealing with their marketing. Though marketing enables early-stage teams to build a solid foundation, learn about the audience and prepare for go-to-market, all of which in many ways defines the market demand and helps to build the product further.

Marketing should begin as early as possible, arguably even before startups have their product ready. It helps develop the right market fit, which is why it should be prioritized early on. Actually, the top reason why startups fail is a lack of market need. So, marketing is about understanding the audience and serving them with the right message on the right platform at a right time. “After all, it’s called MARKETing and not PRODUCTing for a reason!” — Yuliya emphasized.

“Regardless of what area you operate in, B2B, B2C, C2C… in reality, we all play in the H2H industry — human-to-human. Humans should always be remembered when we talk about marketing. Build and nurture relationships, and think about the person behind the screen”, Yuliya highlighted.

Digital tools come and go, new privacy policies pop all the time, social media algorithms undergo regular changes too, etc. However, marketing in its purest form has a foundation that remains the same (the way marketing has always been done, already a hundred years ago). Sprinkling the terms “growth hacking”, “demand gen”, “inbound marketing” etc. does not turn marketing into magic and brings overnight results. Good marketing takes time.

2. Building a solid foundation: How to build a marketing strategy for your startup?

This is a foundation that any company can plug into their own business. Even though the process of building a marketing strategy remains the same, when it comes to tactical marketing, there is no one-size-fits-all. “Build a foundation, and then experiment to learn what works best for your audience, for your product, for your market. And experiment consistently and continuously”, Yuliya added.

STEP # 1: Buyer personas: identify who do you want to reach with your product/service

“It’s all about profoundly understanding your audience”, Yuliya said. “The best way to do it? Pick up a phone and call! Do not build a strategy based on speculation.”

STEP # 2: Mapping of the buyer’s journey: what are your persona’s needs, challenges, JTBD (Jobs-To-Be-Done) at every stage of the journey

Yuliya elaborated through a visual representation:

“Majority of your audience (95%) is at the awareness stage of the journey: they are yet to build understanding and awareness around the problem you’re solving with your product. They are not ready to buy. Hence, to move them alongside the buying journey, the job of marketing is to build awareness, educate the audience, provide value before asking anything in return, build and nurture relationships, and be on top of mind.

Only a small portion of your audience (5%) is at the consideration/decision stage, and are problem and solution aware. Yet, the majority of the marketers are focused on serving the 5% while neglecting the potential of the market — those 95% that need educating. That is why, it is crucial to identify what are your personas’ needs, pains, JTBD, roles etc. at every stage of the journey — to optimize your already scarce marketing efforts and communicate with the audience effectively.”

STEP #3: Initial hypothesis and experiments: set targets & hypotheses to test

“Set targets and hypotheses to discover what really works for your audience, and continuously test ways to reach your target market over systematic experimentation practices tied to your business objectives. Everything is an assumption until tested. Set clear goals: what to test, why and how to measure the experiment’s success. But when setting the numeric goals, focus on what brings value to your business. For example, many marketers are pressured on delivering the lead quantity (and greedy investors wish to see the number rise each month). But more leads do not necessarily reflect in sales. Pushing random leads into the sales funnel will not yield sales. Instead of chasing the quantity, look at the quality (ultimately resulting in higher closing rate and a happier sales team).”

STEP #4: Data and scaling phase: collect data, learn, scale what works, ditch what doesn’t

Review and assess the data, but take it with a grain of salt. Data provides us, the marketers, with the pattern, the big picture, which helps to define the performance of each experience and the next tests to run. This is a crucial phase of experiment-based marketing, a time to gain valuable insights in order to scale the right marketing efforts.

To summarize, my most interesting takeaways from the workshop were:

  • Prioritize marketing early-on. Marketing shouldn’t be an afterthought in your startup. Arguably, marketing should be prioritized before your product is even ready for the market. Experiment, be patient, learn and focus on the quality. Good marketing takes time.
  • Set realistic KPIs: having prior experience with data in a certain experiment helps. Trying to set a numeric KPI for the first time is difficult. This entire discussion comes from the sales team or legacy data from past experiments.
  • Never underestimate the importance of building the proper marketing strategy (personas, journeys and all). Companies, especially early-stage startups, simply cannot afford to be scattered and use resources on unscalable tactics that do not generate real value for the audience.

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June 27, 2022