I’ve heard so many times, we aren’t ready to market our software yet. The excuses are almost never connected to the product but instead connected to not knowing the market and fear of spending what little money the company has. Generally, startups with their first few customers face a dilemma; spend money to market and maybe get more customers or rely on word of mouth and the founder’s networks. I’ve been through this cycle before and I can tell you the time to market is now but you need to approach marketing differently. Startup sales strategy needs marketing that manages risk by testing different ideas to see what works and what doesn’t.
Startup Sales Strategy: Charisma doesn’t Scale
Generally, founders of companies are passionate about their product and they should be. You’ve built the company with your blood sweat and tears. Your passion comes through when you’re in front of prospects and you can close business on charisma alone but charisma doesn’t scale!
Yes, start with your personal network to get your first accounts but you need to expand out of it quickly and build a scalable approach to the market. The way to do this is to make guesses about target buyers and markets and then test those hypotheses. Once you have done that and proved how to close business, then you can hire a sales team. You can’t hire a sales team and expect them to figure out how to sell.
Test, Test and Test Again: Leads are your Guinea Pigs.
As I mentioned above, startup sales strategy relies on marketing that is used to test ideas. You need to get in front of potential customers as soon as possible. Presenting to customers allows you to test messages to see what works and doesn’t and it helps you to build up a customer persona, that is to say, who your ideal buyer is. Of course, you will take lots of meetings that exclude market segments but that’s great. Again, you can test your messages and assumptions on live leads to see exactly how you should go to market. But in order to get these test leads, you need to market.
Marketing is more than just leads
When we talk about marketing, some people think of branding, logos, and events. That is NOT what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about creating industry leading content to position you as the thought leader in your space and running very small targeted campaigns to test messages and themes against markets. This kind of marketing gets you the influx of leads to test messages on and it allows you to build a sales process to close business. But, it also, raises your profile so when you go in front of an investor, you look like THE market leader. VC’s like investing in market leaders and don’t like to invest to “help you market your solution”.
In conclusion, the time to market is now. If you’ve got your first few customers that’s a great start and make sure you optimise those accounts but you need to start marketing and building for the future now, otherwise, you won’t reach the growth goals you need to raise money.